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Liberty Dies as Thailand's Military Monopolizes Power: Junta Dispenses Repression Instead Oof Happiness

February 18, 2015 in Economics

By Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow

Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Russel recently urged Thailand’s junta to return power to the Thai people and respect rather than suppress their liberties. The regime angrily denounced his “interference” which “negatively affected the reputation of the country.”

General turned Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha proclaimed his fealty to democracy: “I’m a soldier with a democratic heart.” Alas, he has a strange way of showing it. He recently denounced those who challenged his “full power”—backed by soldiers, guns and prisons. Still, he explained, he could have arrested former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra but chose not to. The classic “not as bad as Hitler” defense.

Chan-ocha isn’t as bad as Hitler, but Freedom House ranks Thailand as “not free.” Last November Human Rights Watch’s Brad Adams observed: “Respect for fundamental freedoms and democracy in Thailand under military rule has fallen into an apparently bottomless pit.” The country now is less free than its neighbor Burma.

About the only people willing to risk protesting today are students. The Thai Student Centre for Democracy, which unites activists from across the political spectrum, recently organized a demonstration involving mock elections, resulting in several arrests. Junta spokesman Winthai Suvaree explained to Reuters: “We will use negotiation, but if they persist with their activities we will have to hand them over to police.”

A lot of people have been handed over to police under military rule. Indeed, writer Mong Palatino recently produced a list of “normal activities” suppressed by the military since the May coup: raising the three-finger Hunger Games salute, aiding arrested protestors, holding blank paper, displaying papers and placards with anti-coup messages, covering eyes, face, or mouth, holding or wearing red shirts or t-shirts with political messages, selling products with former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s face, talking to journalists, aiding arrested protestors, publicly reading George Orwell’s1984, criticizing the coup, meeting at McDonald’s and the Hunger Games 3 premier, denouncing the coup on Facebook, wearing a “people” mask, playing France’s La Marseillaise, holding academic seminars on politics, distributing a poem on democracy, and even eating a sandwich in public (when seen as a political protest).

That’s quite a list. Noted Palatino, it “reflects the paranoia of the junta leaders on one hand, and the suffering experience by ordinary Thais on the other.” Chan-ocha claimed: “I want democracy to live on,” but he won’t allow the slightest criticism of his dictatorship.

Many of those arrested are released. However, some apparently remain in …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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