Thailand’s military must be held accountable
DESPITE the serious problems that have rocked the country, including falling rice prices, it is clear the military regime under General Prayut Chan-o-cha remains strong, without real political challenge after almost three years in power.
The regime’s strength is partly down to the fact that our society lacks genuine checks and balances.
The coup-installed National Legislative Assembly, and similar institutions, are not in a position to go after the leaders or any other military members.
Civic groups and individuals that have campaigned for key issues in the name of democracy have faced threats and intimidation under Section 44.
But it’s the indifference on the part of the middle class, especially those who joined the shutdown campaign spearheaded by the then-People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) during the marathon protest against the Pheu Thai government in 2013-2014, that baffles me.
It worries me that people, undoubtedly ultra-conservationists, have sold their democratic principles and become submissive, allowing the regime to get away with whatever it wants.
No one is held accountable in the regime despite scandal after scandal, such as the Rajabhakti Park drama, and the high-profile “family business” of the prime minister’s brother, Gen Preecha Chan-o-cha, whose son dubiously won bids for army projects.
They consistently fail to look into how some military officers received extra pay for special assignments, such as those involved in peace and order monitoring, and those with cabinet positions heading state enterprises.
No one seems to care that even though the economy remains gloomy the regime sharply increased the military budget from 80 billion baht to 200 billion baht this fiscal year.
At the same time, the Prayut administration appears to lack the ability to deal with difficult issues like falling rice prices which are besetting the nation’s farmers.
We have not seen any practical or timely measures to help suffering farmers.
Rather than taking meaningful steps to solve the rice crisis, they keep simply blaming the previous administration and sweeping the problems under the carpet, while making
It worries me that people, undoubtedly ultraconservationists, have sold their democratic principles and become submissive, allowing the regime to get away with whatever it wants.
sarcastic comments that are useless, such as the suggestion that rice farmers turn to selling fertiliser.
The comment by Lt Gen Kaewkamnerd, acting Public Relations Department chief, on a farmer’s suicide was heartless and lacked sensitivity.
It showed he doesn’t understand the people’s plight, which is unfortunate.
The military became paranoid when former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra started a direct rice selling campaign, buying rice from farmers and selling it to city dwellers.
Trying to force Ms Yingluck to pay a hefty fine for alleged negligence during her rice scheme is as laughable as it is ironic as the military rolls out a rice subsidy program of its own.
But what saddens me even more is seeing portions of the middle class trying to monopolise loyalty to the monarchy, and go on a rampage to indict people on lese majeste offences.
There has been an increase in lese majeste cases, with at least 22 complaints and lawsuits since the passing of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej.
This over-zealousness and misuse of the strict lese majeste law will not do any good to the institution and will only add to fears that a vicious witch hunt is under way.
As regards to the media, it’s ridiculous that the regime is only fond of the docile type.
This is probably the reason for the military’s latest attempt to toughen regulations for media reporting from Government House.
Former veteran reporter Yuwadee Tanyasiri was denied entry to Government House, where she has worked for three decades.
Many see the move as an attempt to muzzle the media; Ms Yuwadee is known for her straightforward approach.
In a bid to survive, many have obediently complied with the regime’s orders, and have watered down their will to be inquisitive.
But of course there are reporters who are undeterred and are still willing to take on the top dogs of the military – it’s those who I strongly admire. – Achara Ashayagachat is senior news reporter at the