As the autocratic rule of Big Brother Generalissimo Prayut Chan-ocha trundles forward, we are seeing the militarisation of politics, economics and society in Thailand.
All government ministries are controlled by military personnel. Civil servants who were in their posts before the May 23 military coup are being replaced by loyal lapdogs or cronies of the junta.
New executive board members have been appointed to state enterprises, with military men on every board and with Prayut as overall chairperson. Civilian cronies are carefully chosen from among the ranks of the whistle-blowing middle-class mobs who hate democracy.
Piyasawat Amaranan, appointed to the state oil company PTT, is a good example. He sits side by side with Prayut’s army assistant General Paiboon Kumchaya.
Historically, the military has used state enterprises as cash cows to line their own pockets. This is especially the case with the profitable ones like PTT or the Airports Authority. This corrupt tradition started with the dictatorships in the 1950s. Prayut wants to turn the clock back.
Prayut has also put himself in charge of the economy. There is a Yorkshire saying: “where there’s muck, there’s brass”. Perhaps it is more like “where there’s a buck, there’s top brass”.
Conveniently, the so-called Counter Corruption Commission has said junta members do not have to declare their ill-gotten earnings before and after holding office, unlike previously elected politicians.
The commission is desperately trying to find a dubious corruption charge to stick on former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra, overthrown by the military. This would be the “legalistic” way to bar her from politics. Maybe it would provide a chance to dissolve her Pua Thai Party too.
Schools are having to change their curriculums to follow the dictates of the junta. Discipline, nationalism and love of Big Brother are emphasised in the new moral code.
But education must be done on the cheap because the education budget has been cut to fund the bloated military budget.
Many infrastructure modernisation plans have been cut. Some may be resurrected, but that could be a new opportunity for companies to put in new bids and pay bribes to junta members.
The junta has reassured the mass media that sending soldiers to sit in their offices is “nothing to worry about”. The media is free to report the news. They just have to avoid reporting anything critical of the junta. What could be more democratic and free than that?
The junta that came to power in a 2006 coup wrote a military constitution and packed the so-called independent bodies with loyal supporters. They did the same with half the senate and the courts.
These anti-democratic bodies worked hand-in-hand with right-wing Democrat Party mobs to bring down the Yingluck government. But it was a long drawn-out process and the conservatives had no choice but to allow Yingluck to win genuine elections.
The junta wants to make sure this never happens again. This is behind moves to change top civil servants and the planned appointment of a Burmese-style Constitutional Drafting Assembly, made up of soldiers and anti-democratic civilians.
Forward to Thailand’s New Order, Suharto-style “Guided Democracy”!
[Abridged from Red Thai Socialist.]