Speaking at a conference in Bangkok, junta leader and prime minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha today blamed “too much democracy” for the Thailand’s protracted political crisis. Khaosod English quotes the retired army chief as saying:
Our country has seen so much trouble because we have had too much democracy, unlike other countries where the government has more power to restrict freedoms.
“Too much democracy”. One really needs to savour this. Bit like Freddy Mercury sang, “too much love can kill you”, eh?
Let’s recap the last year in Thai politics:
Two days after then-army chief Prayuth imposed martial law last May, he continued to seize power from the elected government in an outright military coup. In August, Prayuth was appointed as prime minister by a junta-installed parliament but also retained his post as the chairman of the ruling military junta.
Ten months after the coup, democracy remains suspended, martial law remains in place across the country, and a new general election cannot be expected before sometime early 2016. Nonetheless, Prayuth insisted:
(…) that today, we are 99 percent democratic, because I didn’t overthrow democracy at all.
Prayuth’s reasoning is solid as a rock:
If I genuinely had complete power, I would have imprisoned [critics] or handed them to a firing squad.
That’s obviously a classic. He further assumes:
I don’t see anyone troubled by martial law. Without martial law, it would be much worse.
This obviously depends on one’s priorities. Just like a majority of Thais with no interest in politics, tourists will certainly hardly notice that the kingdom remains under martial law and is effectively under military rule – that is if you’re not interested in politics yourself and, frustrated by the state of Western democracies, have come to the sad conclusion that democracy altogether is a failed and outdated ancient Greek concept.
Prayuth’s assessment of the impact of martial law certainly also bears up against criticism if you ignore some basics of human rights. As Khaosod English points out:
Since last May, soldiers have invoked martial law to detain individuals without charges, conduct searches without warrants, ban political demonstrations, intimidate the media, and try civilians in martial courts, where military officers serve as judges and no appeal is permitted.
But never mind, that’s obviously part of the missing one percent where Thailand is currently not quite democratic.
By the way, as reported by The Nation, a junta/government spokesman went even one step further in his apology of martial law yesterday. Despite “renewed calls for martial law to be lifted, with many tourism businesses arguing that it adversely affects the sector”, the spokesman argued that martial law was in fact the ultimate “reason behind a spike in tourist arrivals in the second half of last year”.
This interpretation is obviously debatable.
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