Attitude and adjustment

20 09 2015

AFP reports that the military dictatorship’s “attitude adjustment” campaign against critics has almost reached 800 known detentions. That is about 50 a month. In addition to this, it has been jailing opponents and others considered troublesome for the palace at a rate of more than one a month, mostly on trumped up lese majeste charges that are seldom contested or even scrutinized in court. Then there’s all the threats, late night “visits,” repression, censorship and propaganda.

Some argue that the regime is not particularly nasty – indeed the regime itself makes such claims – because it isn’t jailing thousands or killing opponents. In fact, the killings by Thailand’s military have been almost as regular as mileposts on a highway, with the most recent mass murder being of opponents in 2010.

AFP writes of “blindfolds and black site prisons” as elements of the junta’s “attitude adjustment sessions — brief periods of involuntary incarceration that can last up to seven days” and sometimes longer. Like a mafia gang, the military provides an “invitation” to join military officers to “have a chat — albeit an invitation that no-one can refuse.”

In the report, AFP, Puangthong Pawakapan, an academic at Chulalongkorn University who was also summoned and Paul Chambers are forgetting history when they observe that “the junta … is rolling out increasingly harsh interrogation techniques as it stamps down on dissent.” This is not “a new trend,” as Chambers asserts. He and the others forget that this regime has regularly been accused of torture, beatings and thuggish stand-over tactics when dealing with red shirts. What is perhaps new is the use of these tactics against middle class opposition.

Chambers is on firmer ground when he notes that this move “illustrates a regime which has become more desperate about holding on to power…”.

A few days ago, the Washington Post also commented on “attitude adjustment.” In an editorial, it states that Thais “seem to have good reason these days to question the generals … its plan for a faux democracy, … why the country’s economy remains stagnant, or why the regime has been so sluggish in responding to a terrorist bombing in central Bangkok last month.”

Rather than grabbing “[a]nyone who asks those sensible questions … is likely to be deemed in need of an ‘attitude adjustment’ by the generals’ increasingly erratic leader, Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha.”

In fact, it is the generals who need attitude adjustment. They need to reject dictatorship, illegal actions, impunity, torture, corruption and political murder.

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