Readers may be interested in another take on Thailand by the prolific commentator Thitinan Pongsudhirak. This comment is in the East Asia Forum. It begins:
No country in Southeast Asia shoots itself in the foot more than Thailand. With so much going for it, the second-largest economy in the region still manages to underperform spectacularly. Its growth trajectory is in the 2–3 per cent range even though it has the potential to track twice that figure. Two decades after it was considered to be a consolidating democracy, Thailand is now led by outright military-authoritarian rule. In much of the region there will be considerable good news in 2016, but in Thailand good news seems hard to find.
He argues that the pro-coup coalition “has been characterised by instability and political stagnation.” The Democrat Party is not all that happy, he says, and recent events show dissension in the ranks. Thitinan adds that “the street-based Democrat faction known as the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) probably did not foresee a long-term military dictatorship. But the PDRC is holding its tongue for now.”
He sees that “[c]ivil society activists who supported the coup also seem to be having second thoughts.” His claim is that “[m]any members of Thai civil society were conservative when facing the Shinawatra clan in government but are becoming more progressive now that the military government seems to have entrenched itself in government for the long haul.” Perhaps, but this group is bedazzled by royalist-inspired nonsense about “good” people and always see themselves as “good” people working for the greater good. In fact, many are simply paternalistic middle class “leaders” in search of followers who can be “reformed.”
Thitinan reckons “[b]ureaucratic support for the coup is wavering too.” However, the “game-changer for Thai politics in 2016 and beyond may be the position of big business.” No democrats here, with “key business people hav[ing] been supportive of the coup and the government. But sustained economic doldrums and mounting international pressure may prompt them to change direction should the opportunity arise.” PPT reckons they’ll recycle old semi-democratic ideas about government and probably like the draft constitution. But economic torpor will indeed motivate them.
We think the way the military junta reacts to the referendum will be a test and may see some unraveling of support.