No one with an ounce of intelligence would have expected Thailand's junta, and its herd of “academics for hire”, to come up with a democratic constitution - or anything other than a host of counter-reforms to set the authoritarian political agenda for years to come. Overall, the current draft differs little in its tone from the previous draft, although there is a shocking additional article towards the end. The general tone is patronising and banal, with constant references to the monarchy.
The toll of Australia's bipartisan anti-refugee policies in death and suffering is rising. In the past fortnight more than 3000 Rohingya refugees from Arakan state in Burma (Myanmar) have turned up on the shores of Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia, having either swum ashore or been rescued by local fishing boat crews. An estimated 7000 more are trapped on boats that have been described as “floating coffins”.
Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa announced on May 16 that the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) will provide assistance to the thousands of Asian immigrants stranded off the coast of Thailand. “This world is crazy, it shows a total disregard for human life to have people stranded on a boat, dying of starvation without being allowed to get off the boat,” Correa stated during his weekly presidential address.
Thailand's military junta’s new draft constitution is a pathetic, backward, anti-democratic and infantile document. Just like the rantings of generalissimo Prayut Chan-ocha, the regime's prime minister, it is full of tub-thumping and shouting about the “duties” and “responsibilities” of Thai people to grovel to “Nation, Religion and King”. It is infantile because it is written by conservatives who think that by bullying the population into conforming to elite beliefs, they can actually change peoples’ attitudes.
Thai dictator Prayuth Chan-ocha has told reporters not to “speculate” when elections would be held again in Thailand. Many analysts are predicting that elections will not take place until at least 2016 ― rubbishing the initial promises of the military junta that seized power in May to hold elections next year. Meanwhile a panel of anti-reformist junta lackeys were pontificating about the legacy of the October 14, 1973 uprising against the military and how this would “influence” the present anti-reform process.
The appointment of dictator Prayuth Chan-ocha as prime minister by his hand-picked military parliament was such an unsurprising non-event that Prayuth did not even bother to attend. The so-called “vote” was unanimous. Prayuth has set himself up as Thailand’s “Supremo”, placing himself in charge of all important posts. This harks back to the dark old days of the military dictatorships in the 1960s and 1970s. As acclaimed writer Wat Wanyangkoon said: “The junta is detritus left over from the Cold War.”
The Thai military marked its second month in power by unilaterally imposing an Interim Charter giving the military chieftain heading up the junta, euphemistically named the “National Council for Peace and Order” (NCPO), the power to issue any decree to “preserve public peace and order”.
If you are wondering why the opposition to the military junta that seized power in May has gone quiet and wondering if the democracy side has lost, it is important to look a bit deeper into Thai society and the state of the movement. After the spectacular anti-coup protests in late May, the junta have systematically arrested and detained key activists, forcing them to promise not to engage in politics.
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.
Giles Ji Ungpakorn is a Thai activist and writer who is a member of the socialist group Left Turn. He has lived in exile since 2009 after being charged with lese majeste (“insulting the monarch”) for opposing the 2006 military coup.
General Prayuth Chan-ocha's vile military junta, which seized power in Thailand last month, is playing the nationalistic and racist card. Hundreds of thousands of workers from Cambodia and Burma are being persecuted and driven out of the country. As usual the junta claims it is “cracking down” on “illegal” workers. But the Thai ruling class has long used a hypocritical and repressive policy towards workers from neighbouring countries.
It was obvious from the start that the aims of Thailand's military junta, which seized power last month, were not about a sincere attempt to restore peace between the two opposing sides in Thailand’s political crisis. How could it be when the military were part of those who wanted to pull down the democratic system from the start? The military staged an earlier coup in 2006, wrote a new, less democratic constitution, and appointed half the senate and most of the members of so-called independent bodies.