The Asian Human Rights Commission has issued a strongly worded condemnation of the Thai coup and some of its key ideological justifcations. In part, it reads:

One of the excuses [for the coup] being constantly intoned, but not explained, is that national unity was at risk now more than ever. The preamble to the interim constitution asserts the need for the coup group to

“Heal the widening divisions among the people who were being incited to take sides, eroding unity among the people within the nation and leading to a severe social crisis [which…] seemed to have deteriorated to such an extent that armed clashes would ensue, leading to bloodshed and loss of life. This was considered a grave threat to the democratic system with the King as Head of State, to the economy and to public order.”

What does this really mean? Thailand consists of a society that has for centuries been subject to conflict and change. However, there are many different types of conflict. One type aims to reinforce the existing state of affairs, such as by shouting down or killing political opponents. Another type aims to threaten the existing state of affairs, such as by challenging the authority of established institutions. It is this sort of conflict, prevalent under the previous administration, to which the military regime has objected.

In this the members of the current junta are the inheritors of the ideological legacy of former dictator Field Marshal Sarit Thanarat. Ruling the country from 1958 to ’63, Sarit built up a fictionalised version of the state based upon supposed 700-year old notions of patronage via the monarchy. His model of social order left no room for parliamentary dispute, defence of human rights, public criticism or protest. The present regime, while paying lip service to the values of the 1997 Constitution, seeks to recreate a version of Thailand from an earlier time when the nation was peaceful and orderly and conflict was limited to the use of state violence and repression to reinforce the its principles and authority.

The statement is well worth reading in full.