Today’s opinion from Chang Noi attacks the military and its assertion of a “unifying mandate”. From my considerable distance, I can almost smell the growing frustration with the Thai junta and its allies. Over the past month, it has become increasingly clear that much of the initial tolerance of the “transitional” regime has started to wane.
Chang Noi is worth reading in full, but the final cut goes closest to the bone:
The military doesn’t really have any idea how to “create unity”. It just knows that in the past it was successful in creating the sullen acceptance that gave a semblance of unity. But society is not the same as it was 30 years ago. The rise of elective politics has been truly empowering. The military cannot intimidate as easily as it could in the past. One of the most significant developments since September 19 has been that party politicians and local politicians have not meekly accepted the coup. They have been openly defiant, regularly calling for the return of parliament.
In a society as complex as modern Thailand, representative institutions, however flawed, are a much better way of managing the divisions and competing interests than authoritarianism wielding a myth of unity. Only people who live outside normal society, in something like the structured world of the military, can dream of unity.
The fear is that as the coup government’s policies fail, and their support dwindles, their natural instinct will be to do more of what they know best. Already that downward spiral has begun: the retention of martial law, the establishment of the special forces, restrictions on the media, and the order to airbrush Thaksin out of the media just like a totalitarian state.
Perhaps the coup government will eventually achieve unity – by uniting the country against themselves.