Military regimes are intolerant regimes. Military dictatorships abhor opposition. Military juntas tend to be be arrogant and corrupt.
Thailand’s arrogant and corrupt military regime is intolerant of any and all opposition.
When international human rights groups and some Western governments “call” on Thailand’s military leaders to be more tolerant, grant political freedoms and return the country to democracy, they are pissing into the wind.
This junta has made it clear that they are doing nothing of the kind. In fact, from day 1, their task has been to repress, deny freedoms and, most importantly, to deliver a “reformed” political system that is not recognizable as anything democratic.
As the regime seeks to have the charter it has ordered and designed “accepted” in a referendum, it has decided that it will simply push it through. This means one-sided propaganda, dirty tricks and the suppression of all opposition voices.
The more repressive measures the military dictatorship uses, the more deeply entrenched and “normalized” these measures become. A few years ago, PPT warned of the slippery slope into the cesspool of authoritarianism. Unfortunately, the slide that began in earnest following the 2006 military coup and deepened under the Abhisit Vejjajiva regime, is at its lowest point.
The military junta has shown itself to be like repressive pigs wallowing in authoritarian clover. Beneath the clover is the dark, stinking mud of torture, murder, enforced disappearance, corruption and impunity. This is the natural terrain of the military dictator, and Thailand’s military brass is enjoying its return and is intent on expanding this cesspool.
This is seen in reports that the military junta has gleefully declared that it has “put the final touches on a seven-day reeducation program reserved exclusively for politicians to be held at military bases…”.
Like an SS commander who is proud of concentration camps, Army chief General Theerachai Nakawanich joked that this “invitation-only program is meant for the junta’s persistent critics.” This comedic authoritarian declared that the regime “is currently seeking ‘students’…”. As the report explains, this will be for opposition politicians “who will be forcibly enrolled.” Theerachai continues, deriding opponents: “This course is not available by application…. It’s only for those who cannot make sense, so we must call them to create understanding.”
Calling these re-education activities concentration camps may seem alarmist, but then look at articles on re-education camps, here, here and here. Then think of the idea of a “learning course” for politicians who are said to require attitude adjustment.
Theerachai proudly declared he “already has a list of students in hand, which he described as the usual suspects.” Every military base in the country is to be available for holding those rounded up. Prime Minister General Prayuth Chan-ocha said the “course is designed to create better understanding of the military government’s work among the politicians who always criticize him.” Other junta spokespersons have said that the compulsory re-education inside military bases “will target those who criticize the draft constitution or make comments against the junta.”
Rounding up political opponents and forcing them into re-education programs in military camps is not an action of a benign regime keen on returning Thailand to freedom and democracy. This is an act of a determinedly repressive, deeply conservative and dangerous regime. The only way to defeat it is not through the junta’s referendum to be followed by the junta’s election but through active and persistent opposition.