In 2016, the military dictatorship engaged in a couple of rounds of populist giveaways. At the time, we considered this “election” campaigning. However, as the “election” fades into 2018, the big spending is looking increasingly like a means to ensure the dictatorship’s longevity.
The latest promises about spending may be recycled, but they are held out as the junta spending big, with the promise of jobs and investment. In 2017, the junta plans to spend 900 billion baht on transport “infrastructure” alone.
Sino-Thai business buddies will be happy, military concessionaires will be raking in “commissions,” Chinese and Japanese contractors will be setting up their cash registers, and the plebians will be told that this will all result in some trickle-down as baht spill from the troughs as the big boys get their snouts in the loot.
This is old-style bureaucratic “populism,” that makes the royalist elite wealthy. It created the current crop of wealthy entrepreneurs and their forebears as well.
Junta spokesman Lt Gen Sansern Kaewkamnerd said “the investment plan will comprise 36 infrastructure projects, covering air, marine and land transportation…. The projects include double-track railways, electric trains which link suburban areas and urban areas, motorways, ports and airports development.”
In fact, all the “developments” Sansern frothed and bubbled about are already on the drawing boards or even said to have begun. With the exception of railways (and associated land development), these are small projects. Railways are where the big money will be. What’s important in the “announcement” – all have been “announced” previously – is the impact the propagandists hope this will have for the regime. The scheme seems to be to say, “Yes, folks, the regime is doing things.”
Meanwhile, while we don’t know the cost, we are also told that the Army “plans to recruit civilians to work as “cyber warriors” at its cyber crime security centre…”.
Again, this is old news, and the military has been doing this for a very long time. Yet the point is to be seen to be doing something and to reinforces the repressive threats made by the dictatorship.
The suddenly very active Army commander-in-chief Chalermchai Sittisat recycled this “announcement.” Obviously, the brass and the junta are ticked off when all their sites are hacked using teenager technologies. We understand that the hiring of “[c]yber experts will … help combat cyber attacks as well as help the army enhance its computer system technology…”. This is “due to a shortage of military officers who specialise in the field…”. The military spends its time training officers to murder political opponents in real time.
Gen Chalermchai also said the “recruitment would create a unit of state-run ‘cyber warriors’ similar to other countries.” He probably means China and Russia, both of which have massive operations countering domestic political opponents and who are active internationally producing “false news” and hacking “oppositional” sites. We suspect that the targets will be anti-monarchy activists and sites that publish news that runs counter to palace propaganda.
Both initiatives seem aimed at enhancing regime longevity.