ELIZABETH NA’AI WRITES – Thailand’s military junta is crafting an Orwellian state.
Junta leader and self-imposed Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha declared those who cross the lèse majesté line, or espouse anti-junta political dissent will be punished to the fullest extent of the law.
The National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) program aims to promote peace by reducing “hate,” or what can be more aptly described as eliminating political factions and dissent from the conversation. During a public meeting, Chan-o-cha urged Thai citizens to “keep an eye on people” via social media, and to report suspicious or illegal activity.
This divisive method deflects attention from the junta, breeding suspicion and paranoia among citizens, thus turning them into unwitting government agents.
It’s fitting this should coincide with the regime’s Digital Economy bills. If passed into law — and who will oppose it? — the junta can search, confiscate, access, and intercept digital communications without evidence or scrutiny from a credible, judicial authority (Source 10). The junta has created a surveillance state corrupt enough to make even Orwell blush.
Since May 2014’s coup d’état, lèse majesté convictions are the highest in Thailand’s history.
The crackdown doesn’t end with the abundant lèse majesté charges and convictions; critics and dissenters submit to “attitude adjustments,” courtesy of the military. And it’s no surprise that these tactics target Redshirt party members from the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD).
Members of Yingluck Shinawatra’s former government, and Pheu Thai members have been subjected to adjustment sessions after their public criticisms of Yingluck’s impeachment and the present state of Thai political affairs. Chertchai Tantisirin, a Pheu Thai MP from the Kohn Kaen province; Singtong Buachum, Yingluck’s aide; and many other notable party members and advocates were among the arraigned. They will not be the last.
Determined to control Thailand’s political narrative, Chan-o-cha also threatened domestic journalists with attitude adjustments if they “ask too many questions.” So far, some journalists and international publications, such as The Economist, have been charged with lèse majesté following criticisms regarding the legitimacy of the military regime and the methods of its takeover.
It’s evident that Prayut Chan-o-cha and his junta have a great deal to learn about democracy (in particular, its definition). If Thais are to have a meaningful discourse about the direction of their country, they must collectively challenge this military dictatorship’s affront to their freedoms of expression and privacy.
Perhaps then these Orwellian dystopias will stay where they belong: science fiction.