The military dictatorship is so superbly dull and paranoid that it manages to generate some of the world’s most absurd and disturbing news that makes Thailand and General Prayuth Chan-ocha a laughing stock. The only ones not laughing are the generals, who have convinced themselves that they are doing a fabulous job, as well Thailand’s sensible people, who are suffering under a regime of dullards and thugs and the workers treated as slaves.
Most of the absurdity comes from the monarchy and the thugs “protecting” it. We decided to put some of the stories and headlines together. However, we begin with yet another reflection on slavery in the seafood industry. Of course, almost all places where workers sweat engage in slavery and other forms of exploitation. THis is facilitated by the military regime, with just a little more impunity for “employers” than under previous regimes:
Tens of thousands of modern slaves: AP reports on slavery in the fishing industry. The report begins:
Every morning at 2 a.m., they heard a kick on the door and a threat: Get up or get beaten. For the next 16 hours, No. 31 and his wife stood in the factory that owned them with their aching hands in ice water. They ripped the guts, heads, tails and shells off shrimp bound for overseas markets, including grocery stores and all-you-can-eat buffets across the United States.
After being sold to the Gig Peeling Factory, they were at the mercy of their Thai bosses, trapped with nearly 100 other Burmese migrants. Children worked alongside them, including a girl so tiny she had to stand on a stool to reach the peeling table. Some had been there for months, even years, getting little or no pay. Always, someone was watching….
Pervasive human trafficking has helped turn Thailand into one of the world’s biggest shrimp providers. Despite repeated promises by businesses and government to clean up the country’s $7 billion seafood export industry….
Some commentators at some of the usual blogs reckon that this slavery is only hitting the headlines now because US and EU companies are being out-competed by Thailand’s slave masters. That’s errant nonsense. Reports of this kind of exploitation have been made since the large inflow of Burmese migrant workers began from about 1988. Only now are international agencies getting on board and doing something about it. Recent reports have gone beyond seafood to poultry and many other industries.
The royal bitch and lese majeste: Royal dogs were little heard of except for King Vajiravudh’s favorite pooch which apparently deserved a statue. In recent years, they have been considered newsworthy as royal insanity has infected many royalists and others. We’ve seen dopey journalists eating cake with a princess’s yapper, the prince’s poodle promoted in the military and the king’s bitch made into a model dog and a model for the Thai people to somehow emulate.
Now, with lese majeste charges against a factory worker for insulting the king via comments about his bitch, in the words of an op-ed at The Guardian, “[a]bsurdity continues to rule Thailand…”. While it is true that “certain political factions have turned to the lese-majesty law to protect their interests and undermine those of their opponents. In other words, lese-majesty has been exploited repeatedly as a political weapon,” this has always been the case.
Let’s stick with this word, absurd. As a noun it the “the quality or condition of existing in a meaningless and irrational world.” As an adjective, it refers to the “utterly or obviously senseless, illogical, or untrue; contrary to all reason or common sense; laughably foolish or false.” While the dog absurdity may make the absurdity of lese majeste more absurd, all lese majeste cases are absurd. Recall the woman sentenced for pricing goods sold to the palace for higher than market prices.
Another story is headlined “Thailand’s Junta Has Gone to the Dogs.” Writing at The Diplomat, Mong Palatino states that:
Instead of prosecuting corrupt officials implicated in the Rajabhakti Park scandal, the junta chose to protect its ranks while putting a gag on critics and ordinary citizens who merely wish to voice their opinion.
It has done this to “protect” the monarchy, protect the military and to cover-up corruption.
One of the best accounts of the military’s dogged determination to cover-up corruption and to extend its power and control via the harsh and political use of lese majeste is the BBC’s “Defaming a dog: The ways to get arrested for lese majeste in Thailand.” It goes through a range of recent cases.
Corruption cover-up: There are a swathe of stories that outline the cover-up that Prayuth and his junta are attempting over clear military corruption at Rajabhakti Park. Some of the stories link the Corruption Park scandal to a broader junta regime of repression. US spy-like firm Stratfor appears to think that all of the repression and fear of dissent has to do with succession.
Sounding like something from the 1950s, it pretty reasonably concludes:
- Thailand’s unpopular crown prince will succeed the country’s beloved but aging king, despite speculation otherwise.
- An orderly succession process will reduce immediate political uncertainty in Thailand and support the ruling military junta’s near-term efforts to remake the country’s political system.
- As a weak monarch, the prince will depend greatly on the military for legitimacy and will not command an independent power base.
- Over the longer term, the succession will expose Thailand’s deeper issues as the weakening of the monarchy triggers a scramble to reshape the country’s power structure.
At the same time, the junta and its anti-democrat and royalist allies have made the country so fragile that it could go pear-shaped at any moment.
Asia Sentinel has a pretty good discussion of Corruption Park. At one point, quoting an anonymous source, it observes:
If Prayuth styles himself as Superman, then Rajabhakti Park has become his Kryptonite [the rare element that could weaken Superman] because all in one it implicates the military in corruption just like the professional politicians he condemns, and shows that covering up corruption is even more sacrosanct than honoring the memory of dead kings….
Prayuth knows there is no possible defense of the corruption that has happened at the park because it involves such powerful figures among his own leadership, so instead he has opted for a cover-up….
It is as though Thailand has kept an absolute monarchy after 1932 and the accouterments of feudalism, including slaves after 1905 and the impunity of those in power.