“Reforming” Thailand is killing it

15 12 2015

Deutsche Welle has a depressingly reasonable article about Thailand’s current descent into military-driven disaster. It begins:

Since it seized power last year, the Thai military has been ruling the country without success. While Thailand finds itself increasingly isolated internationally, criticism of any sort is punished with harsh sentences.

The article initially concentrates on the attacks on US ambassador to Thailand, Glyn T. Davies, and “the growing chasm between the two sides [Thailand and the US]…” before moving on to the rash of horrendous and harsh lese majeste charges brought against Thais.

On the investigations of Davies, an “analyst” is cited as saying: “Even Thai diplomats and foreign ministry officials are shocked…”.

Somehow we doubt this. The junta has been promoting attacks on the US, viewing it as somehow conspiring with Thaksin Shinawatra to bring down the monarchy. As bizarre as this sounds, this discourse has been strong among royalist groups on social media.

We do agree that a “probe against the US ambassador would have been unthinkable two or three years ago. And the current police investigation against the US diplomat would be unimaginable without backing from the highest levels of the military leadership…”.

It is true that the junta has a “strong penchant for deepening ties with China.” The explanation is that “[t]here is a faction within the military that benefits hugely from the relationship with Beijing, and it is apparently seeking to sabotage a rapprochement with the US…”. The Dictator is mentioned as promoting ties with Beijing.

Domestically, the pressure on the military is growing. The report points to Corruption Park. It is observed that the “case is particularly sensitive, the expert says, because it strikes at the heart of the military’s legitimacy to rule the country.” This is because the military has identified the corrupt as elected politicians. Now the military “is also mired in graft scandals.”

The report observes that the “military government’s performance since it seized power 19 months ago has been grim.” The “economy is in tatters” and political “polarization in the society hasn’t ebbed…”.

A journalist says “Thailand is frozen in time…”. It is actually worse than this. Thailand is going backwards at a very rapid pace.

According to the report, part of the reason for “standing still” has to do with succession. DW observes that the king and “the royal household remain politically influential, even though the country is officially a constitutional monarchy.” It says that:

The royals exercise their clout, on the one hand, through the Privy Council, the king’s personal advisory board which is composed of former military leaders as well as influential politicians, among others.

On the other hand, there is the Crown Property Bureau, which manages the real estate properties and investments of the Thai monarchy running into billions of dollars.

Another analyst says all of these failures and repression mean that there is “growing discontent among Thais…”. Increased repression may reflect this: “The military is attempting to strengthen its hold on power by spreading fear…”. The DW report suggests that “a return to political normality, and to democracy, is postponed indefinitely.”

The military junta’s “reforms” are leading to repression, royalism and the submerging and squashing of ordinary Thais and their aspirations. The country is a failed state and the only way out is the ousting of this ridiculous and failed regime.


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