Part of the paranoia that drives the military dictatorship to behave in ways that seem bizarre is the fear of red shirts/opposition organizing. Like all royalists, the junta thinks that large amounts of money from Thaksin Shinawatra is behind the “plots” the military concocts.
So fearful are they that, in some “red shirt areas,” banks are required to report any incoming funds of more than a few hundred dollars, with funds being withheld from recipients until they can prove these are not funds for political organizing. Think of the thousands of families of overseas workers having to go through political hoops to prove the money is from law abiding relatives working hard overseas.
When the military ran its illegal coup in May 2014, it was far better prepared than in 2006. This time, the military had collected considerable information allowing red shirt leaders and organizers to be neutralized and threatened. Any red shirt leader getting “involved” in what the junta says is “politics” is quickly called in and threatened.
More worrying for the junta a grassroots red shirts who continue to be politically active or are considered so by the military thugs. As can be seen in recent lese majeste cases, the junta is vigorously going after lowly red shirts. It is hitting them hard as examples to others to be quiet, cowed and accepting of the royalist-military regime and the “reforms” it plans so that the hoi polloi can never even think of gaining political, social or economic justice.
In other cases, we have seen a mammoth lese majeste sentence to single mother and long sentences to red shirts in Khon Kaen who protested the military’s murderous crackdown in Bangkok in 2010 by burning symbols of state power.
As Khaosod reports, an even longer sentence – death* – has been handed out by the Supreme Court “to a Redshirt leader in the northeast – which was reduced to a lifetime sentence – for allegedly torching a provincial city hall during political unrest five years ago.” The death penalty is meant to be seen as draconian and incredibly harsh because the military junta is determined to crush all red shirt activism. [*See update]
A lower court had earlier found Pichet Tabudda guilty and sentenced him to one year in prison. The Supreme Court then stepped in and overturned that sentence and sentenced Pichet to death. This was reduced to a life sentence because of a guilty plea.
There is no doubt the highest courts and the junta work hand in glove, and as hierarchical and paternalistic elites, they see the need to teach their children how to behave. That is, how to grovel, kowtow, know their place and serve the elites. Once this is clear, through harsh punishment, the elites believe they will have the conformity they require to maintain their rule.
Update: Khaosod reports that the “court … has refuted reports the Supreme Court handed down a death sentence to a Redshirt leader convicted of setting fire to a provincial city hall as widely reported earlier this week.” Apparently, a lawyer was “confused.”