Thailand’s Clouded Future
Now that the Great Constitutional Referendum is history, General Prayuth and his cronies have control of Thailand which is a tragedy for most of the Thai people. Despite the two and a half years of increasingly dictatorial rule they have demonstrated that are able to maintain power, albeit obtained at the equivalent of gunpoint, no matter how incompetently, corruptly and brutally they have ruled, and will most likely maintain control for another 20 years. The longer they hold power the more difficult it will be to get rid of them.
The international press has had a hard time explaining why 60 percent of the Thai people even in an obviously rigged election would choose a Constitution that gives them no rights and the Junta all the rights, thus effectively voting themselves into slavery. The best they can come up with is that this was a vote for “stability and prosperity.” True the regime has delivered “stability” in the form of a knuckle dragging police state…but “prosperity”? All Thailand’s economic vital signs have trended downward since they took power except tourism, but now that could be in danger as well.
A few scattered small explosions and some light casualties shouldn’t be enough to deter Prayuth’s now smoothly rolling Juggernaut. If they had all been in the Muslim Far South they would have been easily brushed off, quietly added to the 7,000 deaths that have already been caused by the current round of a separatist insurgency that has been simmering off and on ever since I first set foot in Thailand in 1968. But, as they say in real estate, it’s all about “location, location, location.” Pattani…who cares! Phuket, Hua hin! That calls for a response from the highest levels of government! The kind of response we’ve come to expect from Thailand’s head honchos is confusion, blame placing, political spin doctoring…and don’t forget to blame it all on Thaksin. Meanwhile the poor Thai police are waiting for their superiors to decide who they should arrest. Which one of the multiple official versions of the story, all of them ludicrous, is most acceptable to their “big people” in Bangkok.
So if this small ripple is enough to spook Thailand’s tourism cheerleaders what would happen if something really big happened like radicals taking over an International airport and closing it down for a few days, or weeks (which already has happened). We know what it did to Thai tourism even though that little incident ended peacefully with the radicals getting kid glove treatment befitting their social station and the democratically elected government getting the sack. Most tourists are herd animals, and if one country, say Thailand, frightens them, there are always other places to go for sun, fun, sand, cuisine and sex. And if the airport incident were to be reprised now the results would be much more frightening. No kid gloves treatment this time, the cops and soldiers would come in with their guns blazing, no doubt killing some tourists in the process of restoring order.
Will such a thing happen? Probably not. Even the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor would fail if it was tried a second time. But little bombs could get bigger. And now that General Prayuth has Thailand effectively locked down there is no peaceable way to change things. Elections are out and any future ones will be stage managed shams like the Referendum. Demonstrations are out, even the smallest and feeblest protests are quickly squashed. And bringing in a few obsequious technocrats and ex-politicians for window-dressing isn’t going to convince anyone that a kinder, gentler Junta is emerging.
Violence is the only answer left to those who want to change things, but how many of them are there? Few outside the Far South are willing to do more than complain about the current situation in the Land of Smiles. Prayuth has the whip hand and as long as he does nothing of significance little will change for the better in Thailand.
Kings will come and go, officials will be reshuffled, even the mildest dissenters will continue to be jailed or ‘re-educated,’ or perhaps killed, promises will be made and not kept, prosperity will forever be ‘just around the corner’…but there will be stability, enough stability to choke a horse.