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

    Steve Herman is VOA's Senior Diplomatic Correspondent, based at the State Department.

    You May Like

    Video Democrats Clinton, Kaine Offer 'Very Different Vision' Than Trump

    In a jab at Trump, Clinton says her team wants to 'build bridges, not walls'; Obama Hails Kaine's record; Trump calls Kaine a 'job-killer'

    Turkey Wants Pakistan to Close Down institutions, Businesses Linked to Gulen

    Thousands of Pakistani students are enrolled in Gulen's commercial network of around two dozen institutions operating in Pakistan for over two decades

    AU Passport A Work in Progress

    Who will get the passport and what the benefits are still need to be worked out

    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.
    In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movementi
    X
    July 22, 2016 11:49 AM
    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Poor Residents in Cleveland Not Feeling High Hopes of Republican Convention

    With the Republican Party's National Convention underway in Cleveland, Ohio, delegates and visitors are gathered in the host city's downtown - waiting to hear from the party's presidential candidate, Donald Trump. But a few kilometers from the convention's venue, Cleveland's poorest residents are not convinced Trump or his policies will make a difference in their lives. VOA's Ramon Taylor spoke with some of these residents as well as some of the Republican delegates and filed this report.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video With Yosemite as Backdrop, Obama Praises National Parks

    Last month, President Barack Obama and his family visited some of the most beautiful national parks in the U.S. Using the majestic backdrop of a towering waterfall in California's Yosemite National Park, Obama praised the national park system which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. He talked about the importance of America’s “national treasures” and the need to protect them from climate change and other threats. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Counter-Islamic State Coalition Plots Next Steps

    As momentum shifts against Islamic State in Iraq, discussions are taking place about the next steps for driving the terrorist group from its final strongholds. Secretary of State John Kerry is hosting a counter-IS meeting at the State Department, a day after defense ministers from more than 30 countries reviewed and agreed upon a course of action. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb reports.
    Video

    Video Russia's Participation at Brazil Olympic Games Still In Question

    The International Olympic Committee has delayed a decision on whether to ban all Russian teams from competing in next month's Olympic Games in Brazil over allegations of an elaborate doping scheme. The World Anti-Doping Agency recently released an independent report alleging widespread doping by Russian athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. So far, only Russian track and field athletes have been barred from the Summer Games in Brazil. VOA's Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.
    Video

    Video Millennials Could Determine Who Wins Race to White House

    With only four months to go until Americans elect a new president, one group of voters is getting a lot more attention these days: those ages 18 to 35, a generation known as millennials. It’s a demographic that some analysts say could have the power to decide the 2016 election. But a lot depends on whether they actually turn out to vote. VOA’s Alexa Lamanna reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora