In Turkey, it goes like “If you can’t stop the bad events, at least stop the bad news.” Again, this has already proven to be true in Thailand when the current military junta can stop the bad news so early and no need to stop the bad events anymore. Owing to its 14th and 18th announcements which barred all media from presenting critical news and views against the coup, few have such courage to do so.
Just only five days after the recent coup d’état, about 250 politicians, government officers, capitalists, activists, and academics were summoned, if not detained, by the military junta called National Peace and Order Maintaining Council (NPOMC), which was later changed for the sake of the “international perception” to “National Council for Peace and Order” (NCPO). Besides, the protests against the coup still erupted and are spreading in many parts of the country. Nevertheless, none of these were reported in mass media.
Though several analysts argued that the military putsch has no reasonable and legitimate justification, the presence of the coup-maker who stated its intention to restore peace, order, and paradoxically, democracy to the country, was strongly welcomed by anti-Shinawatra groups, in particular the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC), a protest movement gathering since November 2013. Moreover, a famous politically-inclined hipster who once was a candidate in the 2013 Bangkok gubernatorial election hailed this coup as a kind of “soft revolution.”
Even it seem to be a ridiculous idea for those who advocate democracy, the claim of the “soft and peaceful” seizure of power was diffusively echoed in social media by those who take the pro-coup positions as the coup itself can stop the under way political conflict, halt all kinds of violence, and bring back to Thailand love and peace.
“Now the military came to protect your democracy from violence and bloodshed”, a Thai netizen said.
Still, how soft the coup was can concretely considered by its controversial announcements and regulations, which are undoubtedly seen as the attempt to violate the democratic principles and restrict the rights of the people, ranging from the curfew imposition, the media interference and censorship, the political gathering and expressing prohibition, so on and so forth.
More interestingly, while the well-known catchword propagated by the anti-Shinawatra protesters who mainly supported the coup is like “we are fighting on behalf of the people, because the country belongs to us”, the military coup staged so simply assured the very reversal consequences.
For those who are deeply impressed by the recent military move, on one hand, it is a case that this country now belongs to them as Thai people. Still, on the other, the constitutional set of rules resulted from the compromising history of rivalry between those who depend eventually on the traditional institutions and those who depend on the modern one has already deliver its ultimatum that this country has never belong to people who choose the wrong choice in the eyes of key members of Thai establishment.
This was evidently confirmed by the public warning of the NCPO that those who protest or criticize against the coup will be strictly punished under the martial law and orders of the NCPO and “they cannot file a claim for injury,” or even death. Nobody wants to face a return to “the old days” of street violence.
With guns in their hands and ready to put it to anyone’s head, the military decision to seize control of popular sovereignty in this political cul-de-sac can not be seen as a non-violent means at all. For those nonsense myopias who asserted that the military move should merit more praises because it occurred without bloodshed and will end the possibility to civil war need to rethink about it again and again, even though most of them won’t.
As many analysts expect, whatever the results of the coup are, its peremptory commands and rules, which has completely no room for political differences, will drive Thailand to more resistance and uncontrollable, continuous violence, or in the worst case, a civil war.
Furthermore, if solely by force and compulsion can solve the protracted conflict, so what really happened in the southern part of the country which has been under the martial law and the military operation for many years?
One of the strange cultural characteristics in this country was also reiterated few days ago by the televised announcements of the NCPO.
The story goes, with the long-time love story of nationalism, that because many Thais believe in the flourishing era of love and peace existed several decades before the political turmoil, and because they believe that this drawn-out conflict is tearing the country apart, the only unavoidable choice left for the military who acted as the guardian of the nation is to “decide to seize power” for an undetermined period.
Strictly speaking, without common consent, the coup’s aim to achieve a political compromise, as proclaimed by the NCPO itself, was actually to force Thai people “to love and be at peace”.
Thus, this intention cannot be accomplished without purging the oppositions, taming people to be the innocuous citizens, and depriving them of their capabilities to think differently, to question thoughtfully, to doubt radically, and to fight against the injustice especially which committed by those in power.
In order for the country to restore love and peace and “return to normality”, the junta implicitly proposed, every state’s direct compulsions are permitted.
Unfortunately, all these things were completely ignored by many anti-Shinawatra groups who claimed their fight for popular sovereignty.
In Thailand, the rights of the people were overwhelmed by the yearning for love and peace by any means, even by violence.
For these reason, and due to the silence of mass media at the behest of the junta, I recall a quote from a novel of Gabriel Garc├нa M├бrquez, one of the greatest Latin American writers, One Hundred Years of Solitude. It goes like this:
“You must have been dreaming,” the officer insisted. “Nothing has happened in Macondo, nothing has ever happened, and nothing will ever happen. This is a happy town.”
For many people, Thailand now is no doubt same as the 1960s’ Latin American “Macondo”. So, “I must have been dreaming,” they talk to themselves. “Nothing has happened in Thailand, nothing has ever happened, and nothing will ever happen. This is a happy country”– or else, for their own safety, they have to pretend to be in a happy country.
Mitrasahai Tanneung is a multiple-used name shared by a group of Thai-based writers and journalists.