Military roles in a repressive society

21 07 2017

One of the defining characteristics of a military dictatorship is its tendency for totalitarianism.

Totalitarianism “is a political system in which the state recognizes no limits to its authority and strives to regulate every aspect of public and private life wherever feasible.” This means the diminution of civil society and the expansion of military roles in areas formerly considered the domain of civilians.

Two stories in the media today have reminded PPT of the many ways in which the military junta has pushed aside civilians.

The first story is about mass murder in Krabi. It can’t only be PPT thinking how curious it is that the military have become the police. Sure, Thailand’s police are distinguished by their corruption and almost non-existent policing skills. Yet the military are hardly much better.

So why is it that the “[e]ight suspects for the mass killing in Krabi province were handed over to police on Friday after their detention by soldiers was due.” As we recall, it was the police who arrested the suspects. But they then handed them over to the military.

It was only after seven days that the “Royal Thai Army at the 15th Infantry Battalion in Khlong Thom district turned over …[the] alleged killers to national police chief Chakthip Chaijinda at the provincial police headquarters in Muang district.”

Given that it is the police who arrest, “interrogate” and charge, it does seem odd that the military holds the suspects for a week. Why is this? It could be that the military has something to cover up or that this is another example of the military infiltrating areas usually considered the preserve of civilians.

The second story is not so odd, but reflective of the same processes of the military recognizing no limits to its authority. In this tale of totalitarianism, “[s]oldiers have visited the school of a student activist” intimidating Sanhanutta Sartthaporn, the Secretary General of education reform group Education for Liberation of Siam (ELS), and ordering him to cease criticizing The Dictator.

Two plainclothes soldiers – thugs – showed up at Sanhanutta’s school this past Wednesday morning and “asked him about a recent ELS statement that condemned junta head Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha for his excessive interference in Thai education.”

Finding that Sanhanutta had drafted the statement, a soldier ordered him to stop criticising “his boss” and quoted Lt Col Burin Thongprapai who has declared: “I will catch them all, those who condemn the honorable Prayut and the NCPO. I’m a soldier. Slaves like you can meet me at anytime if you have guts…”.

The visiting thug-soldier stated: If you don’t stop criticising my boss, I will pass on your name and I don’t know what will happen to you…”.

Harassing school kids is becoming standard military practice. Recall how they harassed and killed Chaiyapoom Pasae and how the evidence was covered up and the “investigation” gone silent.

No one is too young when political subjection to the military is required of all.





Policy shambles

5 07 2017

The Bangkok Post reports that the “attempt to rein in over-the-top (OTT) service operators is in shambles after the national telecom regulator abruptly announced Wednesday it is scrapping the planned regulations that would force OTT companies worldwide to register for tax purposes.”

Other current policy shambles includes the military junta’s “policy” on migrant labor and police “reform.”

When a country is in the hands of lawless totalitarians, they can do whatever they like. When what they like is wrong, bizarre or mad, they can still do it.

On the OTT debacle, it is now said the “National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) board, the widely-criticised framework had several weak points and will be replaced with a new one.”

In fact, the draft legislation was page after page of nonsense meant to protect the junta and the monarchy in a way that threatened disruption to communications and business on a huge scale. Mad monarchists have no vision or capacity for reasonable thought.





Beyond repressive dystopia

10 01 2016

Chris Hedges in “The Illusion of Freedom” is about the U.S., but could be about Thailand under the military boot:

The longer fantasy is substituted for reality, the faster we sleepwalk toward oblivion. There is no guarantee we will wake up. Magical thinking has gripped societies in the past. Those civilizations believed that fate, history, superior virtues or a divine force guaranteed their eternal triumph. As they collapsed, they constructed repressive dystopias. They imposed censorship and forced the unreal to be accepted as real. Those who did not conform were disappeared linguistically and then literally.

The vast disconnect between the official narrative of reality and reality itself creates an Alice-in-Wonderland experience. Propaganda is so pervasive, and truth is so rarely heard, that people do not trust their own senses. We are currently being assaulted by political campaigning that resembles the constant crusading by fascists and communists in past totalitarian societies. This campaigning, devoid of substance and subservient to the mirage of a free society, is anti-politics.

His observations suggest why a story by Pravit Rojanaphruk at Khaosod, while initially sounding rather depressing for its low expectations, might just be important and hopeful for those wanting to push the repressive dystopia aside.

We won’t detail the whole story, but we do think that the idea of a people’s constitution is worthy of support. Even the idea of challenging the military’s total control of the constitution drafting process makes good political sense.

Involving people from organizations like the Cross Cultural Foundation and the Institute of Human Rights and Peace, while the group is trying to have some influence on the junta charter drafters, they don’t expect much. Defeatist, perhaps, but the idea of an alternative to military domination, direction and dictate seems worthy.





Silencing academics

19 09 2014

The May 2014 military coup has send a chill through all those who think and talk about politics.

The military dictatorship, which has strong support from royalists and other anti-democrats, is no different from other authoritarian regimes. It fears freedoms of expression, assembly and thought. Early on, the military junta specifically targeted academics considered unreliable.

While most academics in Thailand are quiescent in the face of repression and threat, and some academic prostitutes applaud repression, it is reported at the Bangkok Post reports that a tiny group who, with students, organized a forum entitled “Democracy Classroom: Chapter 2 – The Decline of Dictatorships in Foreign Countries,” have found the forum closed by the police. In addition, the organizers and academics were taken in for questioning and “re-education” on their defiance of the military.

Naturally enough, the academics had chosen not to speak of Thailand’s military dictatorship. But even the doltish cops realized that any opposition to military dictatorship was potentially dangerous. Well, maybe not, but their military bosses managed to notice.

The result of this intolerance and rising totalitarianism was that retired and well-known academic Nidhi Eowsriwong, Chaowarit Chaosangrat, Janjira Sombatpoonsiri and Prajak Kongkiratiand were hauled off to a police station. So were the student organizers who are a “group of Thammasat students who call themselves the League of Liberal Thammasat for Democracy, or LLTD.” They were subjected to an “attitude adjustment” session from the cops.

The University might have also been in trouble as “soldiers had earlier submitted a letter to the university asking it to prevent such activities.” Yet to date the royalist administration of the once politically-thriving university has prevented politics on campus. In fact, the University’s administration slithered about and “responded to the military’s request by locking a lecture room used to organise LLTD’s last seminar, but the group went ahead with the seminar in the foyer of the building.”

The” police would release the lecturers and students once they reached an understanding with them.” Usually that means signing an agreement to not discuss any politics that offends the prickly leaders of the military dictatorship.





No opposition can be tolerated

23 08 2014

Most observers of Thailand’s politics would probably agree that, since the 22 May 2014 military coup, the establishment of an intolerant and repressive regime under the The Dictator, General Prayuth Chan-ocha, has seen opposition to the coup crushed.

The military dictatorship has not permitted any opposition to exist, crushing even minimal protests against the coup and sending fully kitted-out troops to remove individual protesters and to destroy any symbol or sound of opposition. Hundreds have been arrested, detained, and released only when they agree to refrain from “politics.”

There is barely a sound of opposition heard following this widespread crackdown, conducted under the draconian rules of martial law.

Yet this is insufficient for The Dictator. Fearful that a single peep from and activist could lead to more opposition, Prayuth has demanded that “opposition groups to end all activities against the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO)…”. He warns “people who don’t quite grasp the situation…”.

He complains that no one should “say ‘bring back democracy, return power to the people and hold an election’.”

Prayuth admits: “I don’t understand why they’re doing this…”. PPT takes this at face value and agrees that Prayuth is dense on matters related to democracy and rights. No dictator could understand notions of representation. No military leader in Thailand can grasp a notion of rights or popular sovereignty. These are alien notions for the proponents of royalist-military fascism.

The Dictator claims that “he was already aware of their identities and their meeting venues” of the remaining opposition. He threatens these unidentified people. In the Orwellian doublespeak of the military dictatorship, Prayuth barks that “… many people still try to destabilise the situation by using the words ‘democracy’ and ‘election’. These people don’t see that an incomplete democracy is not safe and it does not create confidence in the global community.”

Of course, it is Prayuth who is dense on these matters. The rest of his speech as reported at the Bangkok Post is a bizarre babble of an uncontrolled dictator drunk with power. He accuses his imagined opponents to be dumb for not listening to him. He threatens, cajoles and lambasts those he believes do not heed him.

Prayuth’s egotistical rants will be familiar to anyone who has studied totalitarian leaders. Is Thailand being moved from authoritarianism to a more totalitarian regime? The answer remains equivocal, yet the foundations of a totalitarianism are in place:

Totalitarianism represents a special and extreme form of authoritarian government, distinguished by the total, all encompassing power exercised by the state. This power goes far beyond the political sphere, overshadowing nearly every aspect of life…. All authoritarian political systems, by their very nature, have the potential to become totalitarian political systems since they do not recognize any limits on political power. However, in actuality, the number of authoritarian states which make the transition to totalitarianism is very small, due to a fundamental difference between authoritarian rulers and totalitarian rulers; that difference is the vision of an ideal society possessed and pursued by totalitarian leaders.

The goals of totalitarian leaders stretch far beyond those of authoritarian leaders, who for the most part are simply seeking to maintain their power. Totalitarian government tends to arise when the leaders of a state have a strong will to change the world fundamentally so that the utopia, ideal society, they envision can be achieved. This change naturally encompasses spectacular mobilization of the citizenry, and possibly even a profound transformation of human nature. To attain such ends, the rule is arbitrary, rather than bound by law. Governance is based on coercion and fear which is arbitrarily used on any and all segments of society. This terror becomes an institutionalized means of deterring any opposition to the government or its vision of the ideal society. The totalitarian regime’s belief in and emphasis on building a utopia is so intense that the leader(s) are willing to take extreme measures, violate socially accepted norms, take actions that violate the moral principles of other nations, and so on. Their tremendous dedication to the end goal of a perfect society is dangerous, as it makes no price appear to be to high.

 





Further Updated: Totalitarian Thailand

18 07 2010

Watch this video — and decide whether Thailand’s Abhisit Vejjajiva regime has descended to the levels of political repression associated with the totalitarianism of past military regimes. This is the arrest of Nathee Sarawari (นที สรวารี). He shouts as he is carried away by plainclothes police (or are they military?) that he has not broken the emergency decree because he was by himself.

Update: Bangkok Post (www.bangkokpost.com/news/local/186754/pm-demands-answers-over-deaths) reports that Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said “the red shirt supporters’ plan to organise an event today marking the dispersal of the red shirt demonstration two months ago on May19 did not worry the government because he thought the public now understood well enough what happened not to be misled by any side.”

Not worried? As PPT showed in the video, Nathee Sarawari was arrested yesterday for shouting words the government found impossible to deal with in a public place. Here’s how the Post reported it: “[P]olice yesterday detained Nathi Sorawari, chairman of the Issarachon Association, a non-governmental organisation working with the homeless. Mr Nathi was picked up by police while he was taking part in a rally near the Ratchaprasong intersection. He yelled repeated phrases about red shirt supporters being killed in the military dispersal of the demonstrators. Police took him to Lumpini police station but later released him without charge.”

Detained for no legal reason it seems.

Further Update: Bangkok Post now reports: “On Sunday, Nathee Sornwaree, 40, criticised the security forces’ operation in May in front of Gaysorn Plaza shopping complex. He was arrested and taken to Lumpini police station where he was fined 100 baht before being released.” What was the charge that resulted in a fine? Yelling in a CRES-designated area for the rich? Angering the premier? Being just too willing to speak out?








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