A story reproduced in a Malaysian newspaper begins this way:
Thailand enters its fourth year under military rule Monday with the junta firmly entrenched in power and prospects for the return of democracy bleak despite promised elections at the end of next year, rights activists say.
Briefly, the article notes that the junta’s puppet National Legislative Assembly “swiftly passed an array of laws aimed at gagging dissent, in a country that already had strict Lese-Majeste laws forbidding insults to the royal family.” The junta also ruled by decree.
The story is of repression: “Since the coup three years ago, the junta has detained 597 people, including politicians, activists and journalists, according to iLaw…”. It adds:
Among them, 82 were held for violating Lese-Majeste laws, under which offenders can get as many as 15 years in jail for sharing a story on Facebook, while 64 were hauled up for sedition, iLaw figures show.
As we have stated before, we think these figures are underestimates.
The story quotes national human rights commissioner Angkhana Neelapaijit: “The issue of concern is the snuffing out of freedom — [freedom] of speech, to hold demonstrations, peaceful public gatherings…. Human rights defenders are intimidated or prosecuted…”.
A more unpredictable dimension for the junta is the arrival of the new king and the next phase in the military-monarchy alliance that has long underpinned the power of both. The generals clashed with Facebook this week as they stepped up efforts to scrub the Thai internet of commentary and images that were potentially embarrassing to the monarch. But the king has also been flexing his muscles independently, bringing various royally-linked institutions under his direct control and securing late changes to the constitution that increase his authority.
The junta is probably hoping for another royal death so that they can seek to further manage this relationship and maintain authoritarianism.