Military roles in a repressive society

One of the defining characteristics of a military dictatorship is its tendency for totalitarianism.

Totalitarianism “is a political system in which the state recognizes no limits to its authority and strives to regulate every aspect of public and private life wherever feasible.” This means the diminution of civil society and the expansion of military roles in areas formerly considered the domain of civilians.

Two stories in the media today have reminded PPT of the many ways in which the military junta has pushed aside civilians.

The first story is about mass murder in Krabi. It can’t only be PPT thinking how curious it is that the military have become the police. Sure, Thailand’s police are distinguished by their corruption and almost non-existent policing skills. Yet the military are hardly much better.

So why is it that the “[e]ight suspects for the mass killing in Krabi province were handed over to police on Friday after their detention by soldiers was due.” As we recall, it was the police who arrested the suspects. But they then handed them over to the military.

It was only after seven days that the “Royal Thai Army at the 15th Infantry Battalion in Khlong Thom district turned over …[the] alleged killers to national police chief Chakthip Chaijinda at the provincial police headquarters in Muang district.”

Given that it is the police who arrest, “interrogate” and charge, it does seem odd that the military holds the suspects for a week. Why is this? It could be that the military has something to cover up or that this is another example of the military infiltrating areas usually considered the preserve of civilians.

The second story is not so odd, but reflective of the same processes of the military recognizing no limits to its authority. In this tale of totalitarianism, “[s]oldiers have visited the school of a student activist” intimidating Sanhanutta Sartthaporn, the Secretary General of education reform group Education for Liberation of Siam (ELS), and ordering him to cease criticizing The Dictator.

Two plainclothes soldiers – thugs – showed up at Sanhanutta’s school this past Wednesday morning and “asked him about a recent ELS statement that condemned junta head Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha for his excessive interference in Thai education.”

Finding that Sanhanutta had drafted the statement, a soldier ordered him to stop criticising “his boss” and quoted Lt Col Burin Thongprapai who has declared: “I will catch them all, those who condemn the honorable Prayut and the NCPO. I’m a soldier. Slaves like you can meet me at anytime if you have guts…”.

The visiting thug-soldier stated: If you don’t stop criticising my boss, I will pass on your name and I don’t know what will happen to you…”.

Harassing school kids is becoming standard military practice. Recall how they harassed and killed Chaiyapoom Pasae and how the evidence was covered up and the “investigation” gone silent.

No one is too young when political subjection to the military is required of all.

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