We at PPT have long pointed out that notions of Thailand’s junta delivering a free and fair election are ridiculous. In several posts we have shown why this is impossible. There has been relatively little discussion of this so far, but as the “election” becomes a site of debate, there’s more discussion of the nature of the junta’s rigged “election.”
One recent report worth noting is of a human rights activists speaking at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand and reported at Khaosod has delivered a similar conclusion: “Democratic elections next year will be meaningless under the existing political and legal conditions imposed by the military government…”.
One aspect of the report worth considering is the conclusion that “the next elected government could become a puppet of the military, even with the junta out of the picture…”.
According to Sirikan Charoensiri of Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, that puppetry can only be avoided if there is a strong civil society:
Civil society can strongly support the new government to fulfill the wishes of civilians under democratic rules. In this way, civilian authorities could disconnect from the absolute power of the military junta….
That strikes us as grasping at straws. One of the main tasks the military dictatorship gave itself was the atomization of civil society, disciplining some, crushing others and supporting anti-democrat elements of civil society.
Another assessment is by academic James Taylor at East Asian Forum. He argues that the current military dictatorship is just one more authoritarian government:
… throughout its history and in the years since the 2014 coup, Thailand’s fascistic tendencies have emerged through the crevices of an imaginary democratic state. Thailand was never able to establish its democratic bearings and has been constantly held back by military–monarchy interests.
He points to the most basic facts of the post-coup regime and its tasks:
Upon seizing power … the military junta was quick to suppress dissent, limiting rights and freedoms. The coup makers replaced officials at all levels with hand-picked senators and lackeys emplaced in all public sectors, administration, courts and so-called independent bodies. Aside from the implications of the 2017 military constitution, this would make it difficult for a new freely elected party to implement institutional or policy reforms.
Taylor thinks the way forward is for “new movements and sites of struggle must emerge…”.
Such movements and sites are only likely to emerge from principled opposition to military authoritarianism.