Year-old Thai coup imposes superficial calm but little else
Speaking to reporters the same day, Prayuth acknowledged that seizing power “was wrong.” (Source: AP)
Shortly after seizing power in a coup that followed months of debilitating street protests, Gen. Prayuth Chan ocha vowed to end Thailand’s decade of political upheaval once and for all. In his words, “to bring everything out in the open and fix it.”
A year later, the military can boast that it has restored stability and kept this Southeast Asian nation calm. But the bitter societal fissures that helped trigger the putsch are still simmering below the surface, unresolved.
“Our differences have just been pushed under the rug by a junta that prohibits freedom of expression,” said Sunai Phasuk, a senior researcher for Human Rights Watch. “Nothing has been done to address the root causes of Thailand’s deep divide.”
What is happening now is the imposition of peace by force, Sunai said. “There’s no guarantee that whenever the junta lets go of their iron grip, the country will not to fall back into conflict,” he added.
On Friday, the anniversary of the takeover, police quashed a small, peaceful demonstration in Bangkok, triggering scuffles as those who took part were dragged away. At least 37 students were detained before being released Saturday after 11 hours of questioning. Seven others who staged a similar protest in the northeastern city of Khon Kaen were also freed.
Speaking to reporters the same day, Prayuth acknowledged that seizing power “was wrong.” But he nevertheless defended the overthrow of Yingluck Shinawatra’s government, saying “we cannot fix the past, but we can build for the future.”
The problem, critics argue, is that the junta may be sowing the seeds of more conflict by building that future on its own terms — with reform committees, a rubber-stamp legislature and no input from the party it toppled, Pheu Thai, whose supporters likely still represent a majority of the electorate.
The latest point of contention, a constitutional draft released in April, has been criticized even by groups who supported the putsch.If approved, the charter would significantly weaken the power of political parties, shifting it to unelected agencies like a proposed “National Moral Assembly” that would be empowered to investigate politicians for offenses as minor as “impolite” speech — ultimately initiating the path to their removal.
The charter’s drafters say such reforms are designed to check abuse by corrupt politicians, a problem acknowledged by all sides. But Pheu Thai officials say the real aim is to prevent their party from governing effectively if it wins again.
“Nobody knows how these agencies would be made accountable themselves,” said Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva, a former premier who was among those who called for Yingluck to resign as prime minister before the coup. Speaking of the junta, he added: “They should be more concerned with making elected governments more accountable, rather than making them weaker.”
Source:: Indian Express