Time to Lay Off the Thai Military Government

May 2014 saw yet another over-throwing of the democratically elected government in Thailand; in fact this is the 19th military coup to take place in the last few decades, sixteen of which, including this one, have been successful.

If there’s one thing that western governments do not like it’s a military junta running a country; the ramifications of such often involve a dictatorial regime that oppresses human rights and a citizen’s right to question their government.

As with the case of Thailand the military junta, run by General Prayuth Chan-ocha, is under pressure from the United Nations to restore democracy by holding free and open elections – something that the current regime is refusing to do under the pretext that the country is not yet ready due to the high levels of greed and corruption.

General Prayuth Chan-ocha - Thai Military Coup Leader

This assertion is of course factual; Thailand has a long and troubled history of corruption that has affected all levels of society, in fact a recent survey suggested that corruption was fine providing each person got their slice of the action.

According to Transparency International Thailand has an extremely poor rating in terms of tackling corruption and when it comes to government there is very little oversight when it comes to budgetary matters concerning government contracts (see: Transparency International); all in all Thailand appears to suffer from a level of greed that many foreigners find difficult to comprehend and according to General Prayuth Chan-ocha his job is to stamp out corruption and bring about harmony and peace to the nation before allowing the people to democratically elected a government.

Last week a number of students managed to find their way to the front of the stage in which General Prayuth Chan-ocha was giving a speech; on reaching the front they took off their shirts to reveal black T shirts with the words ‘No Coup’ in white, each were immediately arrested and taken to a nearby army base where they were questioned.

Thai Students Three Finger Salute

Within hours of the incident General Prayuth Chan-ocha told the press that the boys were questioned and warned of the consequences to opposing the junta; a ban on the new blockbuster movie ‘Hunger Games’ in which the three finger salute is used as a message of defiance against an oppressive regime was also banned – the move was justified by the government as a way to maintain peace and order; to date marital law remains in place where it is illegal for persons to form groups with the remit of staging a protest against the military government.

Looking around the many forums on the issues of Thailand, in particular ThaiVisa.com, and it is clear that many foreigners oppose General Prayuth Chan-ocha and his military government citing that such can never bring any hope, peace and indeed democracy at the point of an army M16.

There are calls for General Prayuth Chan-ocha to initiate an election and to immediately lift martial law and allow the press to freely report on the situation; this is something that General Prayuth Chan-ocha has refused to do and will continue to deny the people of Thailand any type of freedom until he is satisfied the country is in a stable condition and where the people won’t vote in yet another set of corrupt political figures, namely the Shinawatra family, who will ultimately govern for their own financial and political gain.

What does General Prayuth Chan-ocha fear?  There are many theories as to what he fears and the reasons he won’t give up the power that he took by force.

According to General Prayuth Chan-ocha his sole purpose of the coup was to protect the Thai people and more importantly His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej who now spends most of his time confined to a hospital bed at Siriraj Hospital due to his failing health.

There are deep concerns among the royalists as to what will happen once His Majesty succumbs to old age and failing health; it is widely accepted that the heir to the throne, Prince Maha Vajirunhis does not quite carry the same adulation of the people as that of the King and this could cause problems for the nation in terms of civil unrest.

Whether this is the case or not it is certain that this plays heavily on the mind of General Prayuth Chan-ocha who also refuses any reform on the draconian lesse majeste laws that prohibit any public criticism of His Majesty the King, his heir or other members of the Royal family.

To the west this is a contentious subject and achieves nothing more than the ability to suppress an individual’s rights to freedom of speech.

Such could be labelled as merely another ‘conspiracy theory’ but the fact remains that erroneous laws are in place to prevent any criticism and currently with martial law remaining firmly in place and  people being arrested for anything that is considered unsupportive of the military junta can no longer be viewed as a conspiracy but rather simple facts.

Currently Thailand is taking a financial beating and one that they can ill afford.  Gross Domestic Product (GDP) took a massive hit this year with a growth rate of just 1.95% – previously this figure stood at over 6% and in recent years has been much higher; such is not to be unexpected from a developing nation.

Another factor that heavily contributes to Thailand’s GDP is that of tourism and this too has been in decline over the last 5 years.

This for those on the inside comes a little surprise; after all Thailand which labels itself as the Land of Smiles is often referred to as the Land of Scams.

Tourist safety has recently been the focus in Thailand and among the expat community after two British teenagers Hannah Witheridge and David Miller were raped and murdered.  The Royal Thai Police investigation has been seen as a farce and worse an attempt to cover up and protect influential people.

The truth of these allegations has yet to come to light but as prosecutors are continuously ordered by the courts to produce a report that does carry significant evidence pointing to the two Myanmar (Burmese) suspects Win Zaw Htun and Zaw Lin of the murder the press and forums continuously call for an independent investigation by the British police so as to exonerate the two suspects for who they feel are mere patsies in the Royal Thai Police cover-up.

These brutal murders of these two young tourists are not the first tourists to fall foul to what is often seen as a violent nation where violent gun crime is some 6.5 times higher than that of the US with a population some 6 times less.

Put aside murder and Thailand has also become famous for tourist scams, muggings, violent confrontations … it is widely believed among the expat community that Thais hate foreigners and that Thailand would be far better off if it didn’t allow foreigners to visit and reside in the Kingdom.

Thailand also has a number of other pressing issues that the west continuously attempts to reform, these include the sex trade which often involves human trafficking and worse the trafficking of children.

Human rights groups continue to put pressure on Thailand in order to bring about change but even with the US recently lowering Thailand’s Human Rights Ranking through the ‘Trafficking in Persons Report’ to the lowest ranking of T3 has had little or no effect … once again this is seen as another troubling issue of corruption where evidence clearly exists that those involved in human trafficking are often high ranking politicians, police and military personnel.

Some months ago Mr Alan Morrison and Ms Chutima Sidasathian of a local online news publication Phukewan.com published an article on the abuse of the Royingya and human trafficking.  The report also carried a direct quote from Reuters news agency which effectively pointed the finger at the Royal Thai Navy – the article by Reuters was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.

Rohingya - No Hope

As a result of the article published by Phuketwan, in which it merely re-published the quote from Reuters, both Mr Alan Morrison and Ms Chutima Sidasathian were issued with a writ of defamation by the Royal Thai Navy undersection 14 (1) of Thailand’s Computer Crime Act; an Act that continues to be openly criticized by western governments and journalists for being nothing short of a way to suppress freedom of speech and a free press.

A recent book written by John Stapleton, Thailand: Deadly Destination openly criticizes Thailand’s political system, military and tourist industry which details the perils many tourists subject themselves to when visiting the Kingdom.  Many areas of the book are damning and it has already received criticism from supporters of Thailand and indeed the Thai government has not only banned the book for sale in Thailand but has also placed John Stapleton on a list of undesirables which will effectively prevent him from entering the Kingdom.

John recently circulated the following …

Online abuse on internet forums around the world has labelled former journalist with The Australian and The Sydney Morning Herald John Stapleton everything from a bitter old man to an attention seeking hack, all for his new book Thailand: Deadly Destination. Others, including top Amazon reviewers, have praised the work as a “riveting eye-opener”.

The book, which has just become available, has been condemned by the Tourist Authority of Thailand as sensationalist. Websites reporting news of the book’s publication have been blocked by the Thai police and it has been banned in Thailand.

Thailand: Deadly Destination exposes one of the worst scandals in the annals of modern tourism, the high number of deaths and mishaps befalling tourists in the so-called Land of Smiles.

Thailand is the single most dangerous destination on Earth for Australians, while more British tourists die in Thailand than any other country bar Spain, which has 17 times the level of visitation.

“Along with international experts on tourism in general and Thailand in particular, Deadly Destination references both Thailand’s major English language dailies and its numerous regional news outlets,” says John Stapleton. “The attention it has received, both good and bad, shows one thing, that the issue of tourist safety Thailand is a live wire issue. My aim was to make this the best collection of material on the chaos in the Thai tourist industry yet compiled. In the end, the only surprising thing about the book is that something like this has not been done before. I hope it will form the basis for other investigators to take the issue further.

“The daily bashing, drugging, robbing and murder of foreign tourists and the many safety scandals afflicting the multi-billion dollar Thai tourist industry are badly impacting on the nation’s international image. For the sake of the nation’s reputation, the all too many lives that have been cut short and the grieving families left behind, I hope the Thai government authorities addresses the many problems impacting on tourists. They also need to address the terrible environmental and social damage inflicted on their beautiful country.”

Considering all the ills why should western governments and in particular foreign expats have the right to condemn Thailand, General Prayuth Chan-ocha and his military government?

Taking just the United States of America into consideration does it and its government really have the right to point the finger, admonish and even demand General Prayuth Chan-ocha steps down and holds elections.

The USA, that so-called beacon of democracy, is nothing short of a failed economy that is controlled by corporate bankers and a media that has entrenched so much fear into the people that they have stood by and allowed the administration to enact legislation such as the Patriot Act that gives the President of the United States the power to do whatever he wants … the question therefore has to be asked … how much democracy do the citizens of the United State think they have?

It has been argued that the only trace of democracy in the US and indeed the western hemisphere is merely the citizens’ right to vote in the next dictator who in turn takes his or her orders from the corporate bankers and other powerful corporations who lobby for their own self interests.

Maybe, just maybe, we ought to step back and mind our own business for clearly we have allowed the creation of a dictatorship that is merely wrapped in the ideology of democracy; it is as some would put it a puzzle, wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma and yet we remain too fearful to make the necessary changes to once again put power where it belongs – in the hands of the ordinary citizen through a pure channel of democracy.

As for the expat community who openly vilify Thailand and General Prayuth Chan-ocha who are they to point the figure of righteousness?

It is widely accepted that most expats living in Thailand do so for a few reasons; firstly it’s cheap, secondly the laws can be flouted by simply paying off the authorities and thirdly they have access to the open sex industry … yes where else can an aging obese foreigner garner the sexual attention from teenage girls?

Thailand has become known as the hub of sex tourism and the expats openly take advantage of it; there have over the years been numerous reports of expat peadophiles preying on girls as young as five and have often been able to avoid imprisonment due to the ease at which the Thai Police can be bribed.

Take a look around any of the Thai forums and it quickly becomes apparent that there are a lot of disenfranchised expats who like nothing better than to moan about their hosts and yet few if any leave – it appears they will suffer anything so as not to be dislodged from their bar stools whilst groping a young girl who they believe is in love with them.

Maybe it is time we either stopped criticizing General Prayuth Chan-ocha and simply accept that Thailand’s affairs are its own or that western governments actually showed some spine and take direct action over the abuse – these measures could include stopping insurance companies from insuring would-be travelers to Thailand which would effectively prevent tourism and ultimately impose a number of sanctions that would cripple the Thai economy in order to force change.

As for the expat community they have a choice, they don’t have to live in Thailand and suffer the situation and more importantly spend their money in a regime that continues to suppress freedom and people’s basic human rights.

Unfortunately these words will fall on deaf ears and those that do bother to take it in will no doubt be offended – yes politicians have no interest in human rights or democracy providing the flow of trade continues to produce a profit.

As for the expat they care little other than spending a few moments bashing a keyboard in order to show their disgust and yet collectively they have the power to make significant change by simply walking out en-mass.

Will they do this … of course they won’t because such wouldn’t allow them to sit on their bar stools fondling a young girl whilst having the audacity to berate a system that they are so deeply entrenched in.

We constantly talk about terrorism, political injustice and above all the abuse of people’s human rights but we do nothing about it.

If you are a politician or an expat there are many things you can do in order to bring about social justice which will ultimately make the situation so much better but first you’ll need to locate your spine and ultimately put your words into action … either that or it’s time you stopped spouting your rhetoric and let Thailand and General Prayuth Chan-ocha deal with their own affairs as they see fit.

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