When it comes to crackdowns on “influential people,” there are several reasons to worry.
The first is that the people doing the crackdowns are usually acting in the service of “villains” at the top of the military and police. It is well known that the police and military brass are, almost to a person, “unusually wealthy.” Their wealth is unusual because it far exceeds salaries and is composed of funds from intricate hierarchical webs that transmit ill-gotten gains to the top, with underlings taking percentages. This is why positions are often not just sold, but effectively auctioned.
Second, usually crackdowns are a way for the “villains” at the top of the military and police to sort out criminal arrangements that have come undone. At times, however, when there is political disjuncture or there have been foreign or upstart gangs taking turf or the profit rate has fallen, it is necessary to clean out those other villains who do not serve the king as loyal members of the police and military.
Third, cracking down on villains is popular. As was seen during Thaksin Shinawatra’s time in power, with the infamous and palace-supported War on Drugs, the public was enthusiastic about getting thugs off their backs. We suspect that this is one important consideration for the military junta is heading down this path. They want more political support for the charter referendum and/or for extending their time in power.
Fourth, “populist” crackdowns can become excuses for extrajudicial murder, as the uniformed villains settle scores and get rid of opponents. When lists are drawn up, they can becomes killing lists.
Fifth, the “dark influences” can be defined in political terms, and the military dictatorship will certainly use the “crackdown” to weaken political opponents. As General Prayuth Chan-ocha explained: “These people could support politicians in the future, and we cannot allow them to break the law and attack the people; we should solve the political crisis to make our country more safe…”.
Sixth, crackdowns tend to be lawless. We understand that the military dictatorship does whatever it wants, but there is some scrutiny. When officials with guns operate at night, there is no scrutiny.
Human rights advocates are right to be worried.