News / Asia

No Detail Too Small for Thai Junta

Thai Army chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha speaks during a meeting with Thai ambassadors at the Royal Thai Army Headquarters in Bangkok, June 11, 2014.
Thai Army chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha speaks during a meeting with Thai ambassadors at the Royal Thai Army Headquarters in Bangkok, June 11, 2014.
Thailand’s army chief was named Thursday to head a committee to support small and medium enterprises in the county. As the ruling junta involves itself in deciding everything from sweeping political reforms to which broadcasters can air World Cup matches, some say the generals are getting bogged down in micro-managing.

Board members of the state-owned airline are told they should no longer be allowed to fly for free. Courses on citizens’ duties shall be added to the social studies curriculum at schools. Free screenings will be held nationwide this Sunday for a movie about a heroic monarch who reigned in Siam 400 years ago. A crackdown is underway on the taxi mafia at a popular Andaman Sea tourist destination.

These are among the recent decrees or actions taken by the military since Thailand’s May 22 coup.

The army chief who now holds all power, except those reserved for the revered but ailing King, justifies the coup on grounds that a protracted political standoff was a national security crisis.

Prauth presides

General Prayuth Chan-ocha has promised an eventual return to democracy, but only after fundamental reforms are carried out.

The general, who seized power in a bloodless coup, has selected an air force chief to take charge of the economy, and he has placed a navy commander at the helm for the important tourism sector.

Michael Montesano, who co-heads the Thailand studies program at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, said, “So far, and it's still early days, the indications about economic policy that the junta is giving us looks like the sorts of things that soldiers with very superficial understandings of economic activity generally introduce.”

These include accelerating budget spending, cutting or capping fuel costs and requesting that manufacturers freeze prices for consumer products. It also has paid 8 million farmers for rice they pledged under a scheme bungled by the most recently ousted government.

Economist Kampon Adireksombat at Tisco Securities suggested the career soldiers might defer such big decisions until they recruit qualified officials and technocrats.

“The junta should wait for the appointed government with a cabinet to handle anything that has medium and long-term impact to the economy. If we look at the development right now, they are kind of stretching themselves a little bit too much,” said Adireksombat.

Calming the masses

Thailand academic specialist Montesano in Singapore said there are two ways of looking at some of the decisions, big and small, the junta is making.

“They either reflect an extremely shallow understanding of the causes of Thailand's long-term political crisis or they're simply an opiate to distract people from the military's long-term project in government,” said Montesano.

He added that he suspects it is the latter.

One decision made just prior to the start of the World Cup in Brazil is getting cheered instead of jeered. The military intervened in a legal dispute over broadcast rights, calling for all 64 matches to be aired on free terrestrial channels.

Economist Kampon in Bangkok views that as a pragmatic choice by the coup makers.

“I think basically they just want to keep people at home. The curfew is still effective in Bangkok. If they don't have national broadcasts for free TV, big soccer fans will have to come out and watch the games outside their homes. I don't think the junta wants to see that,” said Kampon.

Sing for happiness

General Prayuth, a 60-year old career soldier with a reputation for a stern demeanor, continues to stress that the coup should be cause for celebration and its theme should be “happiness.”

To help that along he quickly penned the lyrics for a new song, “Returning Happiness to the People,” which has become a modest hit on YouTube, with nearly 220,000 views as of Thursday.

Set to music by the Royal Thai Army band, a singer croons the general’s words about Thailand facing “menacing danger” as “the flames are rising.” The song promises happiness will soon return, thanks to the people allowing the army to step in “before it is too late.”

The military has stepped in many times before. This is Thailand’s 19th attempted or successful coup since 1932. Those across the highly polarized Thai political spectrum hesitate to predict the generals will not be singing the same song again in future years.

Steve Herman

A veteran journalist, Steve Herman is VOA's Southeast Asia Bureau Chief and Correspondent, based in Bangkok.

You May Like

Australia-Cambodia Resettlement Agreement Raises Concerns

Agreement calls for Cambodia to accept refugees in return for $35 million in aid and reflects Australia’s harder line approach towards asylum seekers and refugees More

India Looks to Become Arms Supplier Instead of Buyer

US hopes India can become alternative to China for countries looking to buy weapons, but experts question growth potential of Indian arms industry More

Earth Day Concert, Rally Draws Thousands in Washington

President Obama also took up the issue Saturday in his weekly address, saying there 'no greater threat to our planet than climate change' More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: P from: Bangkok
June 15, 2014 2:53 AM
The curlew was lifted yesterday for all areas in Thailand.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?i
X
Steve Sandford
April 17, 2015 12:50 AM
Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?

Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Overwhelmed by Migrants, Italy Mulls Military Action to Stabilize Libya

Thousands more migrants have arrived on the southern shores of Italy from North Africa in the past two days. Authorities say they expect the total number of arrivals this year to far exceed previous levels, and the government has said military action in Libya might be necessary to stem the flow. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Putin Accuses Kyiv of ‘Cutting Off’ Eastern Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his annual televised call-in program, again denied there were any Russian troops fighting in Ukraine. He also said the West was trying to ‘contain’ Russia with sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports on reactions to the president’s four-hour TV appearance.
Video

Video Eye Contact Secures Dog's Place in Human Heart

Dogs serve in the military, work with police and assist the disabled, and have been by our side for thousands of years serving as companions and loyal friends. We love them. They love us in return. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on a new study that looks at the bio-chemical bond that cements that human-canine connection.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Search for Bodies of Missing Soldiers

As the cease-fire becomes more fragile in eastern Ukraine, a team of volunteer body collectors travels to the small village of Savur Mohyla in the what pro-Russian separatists call the Donetsk Peoples Republic - to retrieve bodies of fallen Ukrainian servicemen from rebel-held territories. Adam Bailes traveled with the team and has this report.
Video

Video Xenophobic Violence Sweeps South Africa

South Africa, long a haven for African immigrants, has been experiencing the worst xenophobic violence in years, with at least five people killed and hundreds displaced in recent weeks. From Johannesburg, VOA’s Anita Powell brings us this report.
Video

Video Sierra Leone President Koroma Bemoans Ebola Impact on Economy

In an interview with VOA's Shaka Ssali on Wednesday, President Ernest Koroma said the outbreak undermined his government’s efforts to boost and restructure the economy after years of civil war.
Video

Video Protester Lands Gyrocopter on Capitol Lawn

A 61-year-old mailman from Florida landed a small aircraft on the Capitol lawn in Washington to bring attention to campaign finance reform and what he says is government corruption. Wednesday's incident was one in a string of security breaches on U.S. government property. Zlatica Hoke reports the gyrocopter landing violated a no-fly zone.
Video

Video Apollo 13, NASA's 'Successful Failure,' Remembered

The Apollo 13 mission in 1970 was supposed to be NASA's third manned trip to the moon, but it became much more. On the flight's 45th anniversary, astronauts and flight directors gathered at Chicago's Adler Planetarium to talk about how the aborted mission changed manned spaceflight and continues to influence space exploration today. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Badly Burned Ukrainian Boy Bravely Fights Back

A 9-year-old Ukrainian boy has returned to his native country after intensive treatment in the United States for life-threatening burns. Volodia Bubela, burned in a house fire almost a year ago, battled back at a Boston hospital, impressing doctors with his bravery. Faith Lapidus narrates this report from VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko.
Video

Video US Maternity Leave Benefits Much Less Than Many Countries

It was almost 20 years ago that representatives of 189 countries met at a UN conference in Beijing and adopted a plan of action to achieve gender equality around the world. Now, two decades later, the University of California Los Angeles World Policy Analysis Center has issued a report examining what the Beijing Platform for Action has achieved. From Los Angeles, Elizabeth Lee has more.
Video

Video Endangered Hawaiian Birds Get Second Chance

Of the world's nearly 9,900 bird species, 13 percent are threatened with extinction, according to BirdLife International. Among them are two Hawaiian honeycreepers - tiny birds that live in the forest canopy, and, as the name implies, survive on nectar from tropical flowers. Scientists at the San Diego Zoo report they have managed to hatch half a dozen of their chicks in captivity, raising hopes that the birds will flutter back from the brink of extinction. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Exhibit Brings Renaissance Master Out of the Shadows

The National Gallery of Art in Washington has raised the curtain on one of the most intriguing painters of the High Renaissance. Mostly ignored after his death in the early 1500s, Italian master Piero di Cosimo is now claiming his place alongside the best-known artists of the period. VOA’s Ardita Dunellari reports.
Video

Video Sidemen to Famous Blues Artists Record Their Own CD

Legendary blues singer BB King was briefly hospitalized last week and the 87-year-old “King of the Blues” may not be touring much anymore. But some of the musicians who have played with him and other blues legends have now released their own CD in an attempt to pass the torch to younger fans... and put their own talents out front as well. VOA’s Greg Flakus has followed this project over the past year and filed this report from Houston.
Video

Video Iran-Saudi Rivalry Is Stoking Conflict in Yemen

Iran has proposed a peace plan to end the conflict in Yemen, but the idea has received little support from regional rivals like Saudi Arabia. They accuse Tehran of backing the Houthi rebels, who have forced Yemen’s president to flee to Riyadh, and have taken over swaths of Yemen. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA, analysts say the conflict is being fueled by the Sunni-Shia rivalry between the two regional powers.

VOA Blogs