Mil­i­tary junta deeply em­bed­ded in Thai life

New Straits Times - - World -

BANGKOK: On Fri­day evenings in Thai­land, sand­wiched be­tween the evening news and a pop­u­lar soap opera, is a prime-time pro­gramme that has been run­ning for three years, or ever since the mil­i­tary took power in a May 22, 2014 coup.

Called Sus­tain­able De­vel­op­ment from a Royal Phi­los­o­phy, it stars junta leader and for­mer army chief Gen­eral Prayuth Chan o cha speak­ing on a range of top­ics, from the virtues of mod­esty to the state of the econ­omy.

The mil­i­tary has al­ways played a prom­i­nent role in Thai life. But Prayuth’s show is just one of many ex­am­ples of how em­bed­ded the junta has be­come in Thai so­ci­ety.

Thai­land’s mil­i­tary gov­ern­ment has ac­knowl­edged it wants to weaken po­lit­i­cal par­ties and main­tain in­flu­ence over fu­ture gov­ern­ments, partly through a new con­sti­tu­tion ap­proved by Thai­land’s king last month.

But data com­piled shows the mil­i­tary is leav­ing an im­print on nearly ev­ery in­sti­tu­tion of Thai so­ci­ety.

The mil­i­tary con­trols 143 out of 250 par­lia­men­tary seats. Un­der the pre­vi­ous junta af­ter the 2006 coup, the mil­i­tary held 67 out of 242 seats.

Out of the 36 cabi­net mem­bers, 12 have a mil­i­tary back­ground. In 2006, only four mil­i­tary of­fi­cers were among the 37 cabi­net mem­bers.

More than half of the 13 mem­bers of the Privy Coun­cil, the body that ad­vises new King Maha Va­ji­ra­longkorn — him­self a for­mer sol­dier — are mil­i­tary men. It was just un­der half in the pre­vi­ous coun­cil.

“The mil­i­tary coup of 2014 of­fered the armed forces the chance to put in place a wider foot­print and they are do­ing so,” said Paul Cham­bers, a pro­fes­sor

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