Further updated: It’s still a military regime I

12 05 2020

Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha appears far more comfortable when ruling under an emergency decree. Parliament is not his thing and with it not meeting, its (limited) significance is reduced to invisibility. And, the virus crisis has (further) reduced the (limited) scrutiny he gets from the (tame) media; less than during the full-on military dictatorship.

The Dictator’s comfort zone – within the hard shell of the military – is showcased in a Khaosod report. In an odd move, Prime Minister Gen Prayuth “ordered a public survey to gather opinions on whether the emergency decree should be lifted, officials said Monday.”

It does seem strange that a “strongman” feels the need “survey” public opinion on a topic that has generally been considered a matter of science and public health. But we do know that the military junta used “surveys” to “assess” public mood. These surveys were usually conducted by the military and related bodies.

And so it is now:

National security official Gen. Somsak Rungsita said the survey will be conducted by the National Intelligence Agency and the Internal Security Operation Command. It will cover questions regarding the next phase of business reopenings and public opinion on emergency decree, he said.

Yes, the emergency decree. If those junta/military-backed agencies show that “people” are “happy” for the generals and their minions to bungle on under strict controls, then we might expect the emergency decree to be extended beyond the end of May.

Reassuringly, and suggesting that the “survey” is something of a smokescreen, Gen Somsak declared: “The decree has to be eventually revoked. It can’t stay forever…”. In the usual idiotic manner of generals, he added: “Please don’t link it to politics since the enactment of emergency decree is purely for the health of citizens.” Of course, it isn’t all about health.

Even the Democrat Party’s Ong-art Klampaiboon dared suggest that “the government” of which he is a part but in which his party has no influence, “should assign academics to conduct the questionnaire instead of intelligence agencies.” We’d ask why a competent government even needs a survey unless it is to justify more unaccountable (military) rule.

Update 1: The regime has now denied the above report despite it being clear that the earlier reports were accurate. National Security Council secretary-general Gen Somsak Roongsita has stated “Gen Prayut[h] … does not have a policy and has not issued an order” to carry out a survey on the issue…”. Ho hum.

Update 2: Ho hum indeed! Khaosod reports that Gen Prayuth has squashed talk about the emergency decree being lifted at the end of May. The report states:

National Security Council sec-gen Gen. Somsak Roongsita also told the media on Monday that it is “highly likely” that Thailand’s State of Emergency will end on May 31, citing surveys by two intelligence agencies.

“Both agencies were quite satisfied with the overall public health and safety situations,” Somsak said. “[They] believed that the general Thais have good understandings of the need for social distance at the time of the pandemic outbreak.”

Gen Prayuth seems to want the decree in place for longer, claiming health concerns. As usual, it is confusion erring on the side of repression.


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