The New York Times has an AP report that has the United States urging “Thailand to limit the role of its powerful military after the ruling junta gave military officers new police-like powers to arrest and detain criminal suspects.” We guess that “Thailand” means the military junta in this context as it is the only group with any political power in Thailand today.
The State Department is indeed correct to have “voiced concern that Thai authorities issued an order extending the internal policing authorities of the military to seize assets, search premises, and summon, arrest, and interrogate civilians.”
Where we got lost was on a statement by Katina Adams, State Department spokeswoman for East Asia who reportedly said: “We continue to urge the Thai government to limit the role of the military in internal policing and to allow civilian authorities to carry out their duties…. This includes returning the prosecutions of civilians to civilian courts and providing adequate due process and fair trial protections.”
There’s a problem here. There is essentially no distinction that can be made between the “Thai government” and the military junta. To ask the military government to “limit the role of the military” is like asking a bank robber to consider stealing less money. Thailand is a military dictatorship. The military state is embedding itself ever more deeply, and it makes no sense for the United States State Department to distinguish between government and military.
Equally confusing is the AP report’s citing of Human Rights Watch on General Prayuth Chan-ocha’s dictatorship. AP feels the need to render this as “dictatorship.” This implies that there is debate on this term. There shouldn’t be. Thailand remains the world’s only state currently ruled by a military junta. Ipso facto, it is a military dictatorship.
We would hope that the various new agencies see not just the government as a dictatorship but the charter as the military’s tool for authoritarianism and the referendum campaign as a military propaganda exercise.