Updated: Watching some and not others

26 03 2018

Key words for the military dictatorship: watching and watches. The Dictator “has ordered security forces to closely monitor political groups which are currently launching campaigns to unseat the …[military junta].” The so-called Democracy Restoration Group (DRG) and Start Up People are being watched as “anti-military activists who have stated that they will stage a prolonged rally in May to oust the regime ahead of the fourth anniversary of the May 22, 2014 coup.”

Via a mouthpiece, Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha warned people to be watchful of political groups fomenting political unrest, “encouraging everyone to think twice about what they should and shouldn’t do to keep the country moving forward…”. By “forward,” he means backward in political time.

He warned that the “election” – still no date – could be delayed, saying: “So, if the unrest continues to rage, is it likely an election can proceed smoothly?” By “rage” he seems to mean something else. We see no protest raging under a military dictatorship that has worked hard and blunt to squash all expressions of dissent. He’s making up stories in an effort to strike fear into the ever-frightened middle class, the class that usually supports the junta.

But who is watching the watchman? No one. The National Anti-Corruption Commission has again gone quiet on Gen Prawit Wongsuwan, the Deputy Dictator and his luxury watches. The NACC will be looking at the political tea leaves and genuflecting to big powers that might trample them if they do something unexpected.

No one should be surprised as corruption under military regimes is normal. It was only last December that The Dictator had a bunch of people dress in yellow for his declaration of “zero tolerance” of corruption. The result is 50/50 tolerance. Intolerance for the corruption of opponents and 100% tolerance for corruption by junta, its minions, relatives and associated officials. One of the things about a military coup and the reinforcement of “officials” in politics is that officials, civil and military, engage in a corruption buffet. They are given license to be corrupt and even to get away with murder.

These issues are ignored by the Anti-Corruption Organisation of Thailand, a private sector group, when it claims corruption is still reduced under the junta. It works on perceptions, not facts. Under a military regime, while officials are empowered to be corrupt, whistle blowers are disempowered. Precious few complain about corruption under the junta for fear of being branded an opponent and threatened by the military’s thugs. It is only now, with opposition to the junta rising, that corruption cases – dozens of them – are coming to the fore. And still there are dozens more that have been buried.

The extent of corruption under the junta will only become clear once Thailand is junta-free and the military is under civilian authority.

Update: The NACC committee “investigating” Prawit’s watches is now reported to be about ready to “present its findings to the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC)” later this week. NACC secretary-general Worawit Sukboon said Prawit had made “a 38-page written explanation of the 39.5-million-baht [watch] collection…”. It will be the NACC that will decide whether to further trouble the Deputy Dictator by having him “appear in person to make a statement…”.


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