Giles Ji Ungpakorn
It is difficult to spot the difference between one year ago under the rule of the military junta, and today under the rule of the military Parliamentary Dictatorship. In fact the only difference is that after the fixed elections earlier this year, the junta is using parliament as a fig-leaf for the continued dictatorship.
Following the brilliant ant-junta protests a week ago, the police have filed charges against the organisers of the peaceful and legitimate protests in Bangkok and Chiang Mai. This is yet another example of the continued repression against the right to protest. It is hoped that any prosecutions will be met with an escalation of action on the streets.
To prove who is really in charge, the Ministry of Defence has come out and condemned these pro-democracy protests. This again highlights the militarisation of Thai society and politics which has been going on since the 2014 coup.
Added to this is the ridiculous accusations of lèse majesté by ultra-conservatives against people posting pictures of the protests with posters of the dead king in the background. These anti-democratic dinosaurs wish to make previous monarchs into holy relics. Yet, the individual most responsible for bringing the institution of the monarchy into disrepute, in the eyes of Thai citizens, is the present king Wachiralongkorn.
This is due to his debauched life-style in Germany, his insulting behaviour towards women and his never-ending greed. This is why the Thai ruling class need to keep putting up posters of his dead father in their desperate attempt to prop up royalism.
The junta is trying to stir up racism and nationalism to deflect attention away from the lack of democracy and the deteriorating standard of living for most Thais. The Parliamentary Junta’s aristocratic Minister of Labour has been mouthing off about the need to arrest so-called illegal migrants who he accuses of “stealing jobs from Thais”. This is an age-old process of racist scape-goating. It is never true. Migrant workers fill low income and dirty-job niches vacated by locals. The Thai economy would be in a serious state without migrant workers.
In Patani, the hated military rangers have murdered three innocent civilians in the province of Naratiwat. The rangers planted weapons and ammunition around the corpses and tried unsuccessfully to claim that those killed were insurgents. Eventually the military were forced to admit this and issued an “apology”. But that is not good enough. The rangers are hated and feared by local Malay Muslims for their trigger-happy and racist behaviour. The situation is made worse by having a military national government and by the deep racism and nationalism supported by the Thai ruling class. Peace can only be achieved if the military are forced to withdraw from Patani and national politics and citizens are able to exercise self-determination.
Thailand is one of the most unequal societies in the world. This is due to the monopoly of power by the conservative elites. Yet the present military government has defined women’s sanitary towels as “luxury” items for tax purposes. Women’s sanitary products are more expensive in relation to Thai incomes than in Western societies. This injustice has quite rightly caused a storm of indignation on social media. Sanitary products for women should be supplied free of charge as a necessary service to all women. They are not things that women can choose to buy or not to buy.
As we turn the corner to 2020, it is to be hoped that the level of protests against the Parliamentary Junta will increase and the military will be forced out of politics. For that to happen it will take organisation.