Thailand: Rethinking The Thought Police

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April 23, 2016: Last month the military government told the army to harass or arrest anyone spreading “confusing ideas” about the August 7 national referendum on a new constitution. This order, not surprisingly, proved to be very unpopular. The new constitution gives the military more power, all in the name of national defense. Most Thais, and even the UN, have criticized granting the troops martial law type authority just because the generals fear public criticism of a new constitution that gives the military more power. This comes at the same time the army was forced, by public pressure and growing unrest among soldiers, to publicly apologize for the traditional tolerance for officers and NCOs beating to death soldiers they have a dispute with. This was triggered by an April 2 nd incident in which a young solider was beaten to death after he argued with an officer. Long tolerated as a necessary method for maintaining discipline the growing public anger at the military government has made most Thais less tolerant of such military customs. Some of the generals have sensed this change in public mood even as many officers did not agree with the public apology. There is general agreement within the military that the public is more hostile to the military than ever before and there is likely to be a backlash once democracy is restored. The new constitution is supposed to protect the military because the generals believe they have enough supporters to block a later effort to revoke the new constitution. The Thai generals also note what is happening next door in Burma, where the military allowed elections in 2011 after nearly fifty years of military rule. Despite “guarantees” in the new Burmese constitution most Burmese still want to punish their generals for crimes committed during military rule and continuing bad behavior by active and retired officers. The Thai generals have promised new elections in 2017 if the new constitution is approved. What happens if the constitution is not approved is less certain.

Down south separatist and Islamic terrorist violence is on the rise again. There was big decline in 2015, which has part of a six year trend. But now there are several incidents a week and the trend may be at an end. Worse there is no progress on peace talks with the separatist groups that are willing to discuss a peace deal. Then again some of the separatist groups are still willing to discuss terms for talks and peace. But so far that is as far as it has gotten.

April 19, 2016: In the south (Songkhla province, just north of the three Moslem provinces) a motorcycle bomb went off killing two civilians and wounding eleven others. Only about 25 percent of the people in Songkhla are Moslems. Moreover they speak Thai rather than Malay and have not shown any support for Moslem separatism. Despite that police earlier warned that some of the Islamic terrorists to the south have discussed carrying out attacks in nearby non-Moslem provinces.

April 15, 2016: In the south (Pattani province) someone fired on a government compound and set off a bomb next to it. There was some property damage but no injuries because the attack came right after midnight. Later in the day four soldiers were wounded by a roadside bomb elsewhere in Pattani.

April 11, 2016: In the south (Songkhla province, just north of the three Moslem provinces) a motorcycle bomb went off outside a railroad station killing a policeman and a four year old child. Outrage over the death of a child led to more tips than usual and police had arrested two suspects on the 22nd. These suspects had criminal records and were wanted for earlier bombing incidents.

April 8, 2016: In the south (Yala province) someone fired a 40mm grenade (using an M79 launcher) at a military base and wounded a soldier.

April 7, 2016: In the south (Pattani province) a roadside bomb wounded two policemen in a passing convoy. Elsewhere in Pattani a commando raid on a suspected Islamic terrorist hideout resulted in a gun battle that left one suspect dead. In another Pattani incident a local defense volunteer was shot dead.

April 6, 2016: In the south (Narathiwat province) two Moslem men (a village leader and local defense volunteer) were shot dead, apparently by separatist rebels. The two victims were working for the government and the separatists are trying to discourage that.

April 4, 2016: The military government gave soldiers in the three Moslem majority provinces down south more powers to deal with the continued violence down there. The new powers suspend more of the legal protections Thais have against arbitrary search, arrests and interrogation.

 

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