Digging in or grave-digging? I

31 01 2018

When a regime comes under pressure and feels that pressure, it usually responds in a couple of ways. One way is to change what it’s been doing so as to assuage some of the criticism. Another is to dig in and attack critics and ring-fence the regime with barbed wire, sometimes metaphorically and sometimes for real. It is often difficult to distinguish digging in from political grave-digging.

Thailand’s military dictatorship is taking to ring-fencing. As we noted yesterday, the regime has gone after anti-coup activists. It is reported that it is also using its “law” – decrees and special powers – to hobble the People Go Network. The junta has declared that “eight participants [leaders] must report to the authorities or arrest warrants will be issued for them…”. Flying in the face of real law – indeed, ignoring law – where the Administrative Court ruled that the “We Walk” could continue their peaceful campaign without interference by police as they walk to Khon Kaen. The junta has reaffirmed that the walk is an “illegal assembly as it violated a years-long ban on gatherings of five or more people for political purposes.”

We have long shown the junta to be essentially lawless, and this is another example of it quoting “rule of law” when it thumbs its nose at law. A lawless regime is a dangerous regime.

At the same time, the junta is trying to manage its supporters, who have also become restive. The proposed coal-fired power plant in Songkhla has seen coup supporters opposing the junta. The junta has had several of them arrested and vowed to have the project built. Southern anti-coal demonstrators showed up for a sit-in at Bangkok’s Government House. The outcome is The Dictator’s sudden statement that the project may have to be shelved. That back-down shows double standards and demonstrates weakness.

A related strategy is for The Dictator to appeal to his political base of anti-democrats. General Prayuth Chan-ocha, who illegally seized the state in May 2014, has begged for “more time” so his military dictatorship can “continue laying the foundations for the country…”. He begs for the chance to ensure that Thailand remains a military-dominated state. He acknowledged that people have lost “hope in him or his government,” but begged for a renewed enthusiasm for military dictatorship.

He lied that his only promise was “to improve people’s lives and make them happier.” He ignored his repeated betrayal of promises on an “election.” The Dictator reckoned that people should forget about the junta’s “election” and consider if “the country more happy and peaceful now?” He asked: “Has the economy improved? Have many problems been solved? Though it’s not that much, it has resulted in more happiness for many people. This is my promise. I’ve done what I can…”. He knows that continuing dictatorship relies on enough people accepting material progress over the ballot box.

Digging in or digging his regime’s grave? There’s still a long way to go.


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1 02 2018
Digging in or grave-digging? II | Political Prisoners of Thailand

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