Thai­land’s mil­i­tary must be held ac­count­able

The Myanmar Times - - Views - ACHARA ASHAYAGACHAT news­room@mm­

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

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