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.
After Thailand’s military overthrew the government and seized power in a coup on May 22, its new ultraconservative rulers wasted no time in rolling out the most radical and repressive right-wing reforms the country has seen since the height of the Cold War. Army chief General Prayuth Chan-Ocha is now prime minister. The administration of the nation is being conducted out of an army base, and its people ruled by decree.
The most striking thing about Thailand's coup d'etat is the speed and size of the anti-coup protests. Int he three days immediately after the coup, mass protests of ordinary people have erupted in many areas of Bangkok, but also in Chiangmai and other towns. This is history in the making.
Representatives from the two sides of Thailand’s political conflict sat around a table on the afternoon of May 22 for the second day of negotiations hosted by the Royal Thai Army. The meeting took place under the military's self-declared martial law. It was clear from the outset that no agreement between the pro- and anti-democracy forces would be reached. And so at about 3pm, the army chief General Prayuth Chan-Ocha, laid his cards on the table by bluntly presenting government representatives with one option ― resign.