One Week Into Thailand’s New Era: Politics Disappear as an Issue

The Orator by Magnus Zeller ca 1920 ed‘The Orator’ by Magnus Zeller ca. 1920.

by Marque A. Rome

Is political news disappearing from Thailand’s major news outlets? I saw no headlines today dealing with politics on the Website operated by Daily News, one of the country’s top two Thai language dailys.

That may be regarded as rather unusual in view of the new government, and statements from its leader, Gen. Prayuth Janocha, that reforms aimed at rooting out political instability, corruption and injustice are henceforth the order of the day.

But so is censorship. The general stated in no uncertain terms Wednesday that this is not a time for criticism and second-guessing his every move, that news services should refrain from divisive political reporting and instead cheer on the soldiers who have taken over.

I did find a quite interesting titbit buried inside the Website of a local Phuket daily, especially as it apparently reveals existence of at least one prison set up only to handle political cases. Here is the relevant part in my translation:

Hitler State Magnus Zeller ed‘The Total State’ by Magnus Zeller.

Former minister of Education Jaturon Chaisaeng is not being held in Lak Sri Prison, Thailand’s designated lock-up for political prisoners, according to a report published yesterday on Thai language Website Quoting Penitentiary Department Chief Pol. Col. Suchat Wongsanantchai, it was stated that Jaturon, arrested by soldiers 28th May while addressing the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand, was expected “to do as the other prisoners do,” and that no special order had been issued “with regard to food he eats or visitations.”

Jaturon is held in Bangkok Special Prison “where special procedures as to his governance are not in effect.” No consideration yet has been given to transferring him to Lak Si Temporary Prison, “which is clearly intended for political prisoners only. But Jaturon was sent to prison for failing to comply with an order by the NCPO (National Council for Peace and Order) to report for questioning.”

It cannot but be supposed that Jaturon, Education minister when the caretaker government of prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra was toppled by the military 22nd May, fully appreciates the difference between being arrested while making a statement to foreign press regarding his political reasons for refusing to comply with NCPO orders, and committing a political crime.

In a separate story, it was reported yesterday the former minister and his son are currently under investigation for corruption in connection with discovery of contraband teak logs and other items at a hotel Jaturon owns.

In the more subtle East, clearly, such mistakes as that of Northumbria’s King Aella — who famously threw his adversary into a pit of poisonous snakes by way of execution without taking into account the latter’s offspring — are avoided. “How the little pigs would grunt if they knew what the old boar suffers,” Ragnar Lodbrok croaked before succumbing; and, indeed, Aella lived to rue the day, for Ivar the Boneless, Ragnar’s son, captured him at York, broke his back in a procedure called the ‘blood eagle’, then drew out the hapless monarch’s living lungs.

blood eagleThe ‘blood eagle’ execution in ancient stone relief.

Jaturon, however, faces nothing so messy, merely two years in prison and a 40,000 baht fine for taking what he claimed was a principled stand in defiance of authority he does not recognise (but the big battalions all do). He may stew a bit longer if found guilty of transgressing the country’s environmental and anti-corruption statutes.

Siangtai also reported that former Peua Thai Party Surin province MP Prasit Chaiysrisa, who earlier reported to the NCPO as ordered, is being held over in detention because a charge has since been filed against him claiming he violated Section 112 of Thailand’s Lese Majeste Act. Prasit denied any intention of “defaming the institution” and said he had prepared cash and land deeds worth one million baht for bail.

The story noted that Prasit would not be tried before military tribunal because the act of which he is accused occurred before the NCPO government was installed.

So all’s well that ends well, wouldn’t you say? The state can put an end to politics while we, meanwhile, look for something entertaining on our smartphones.


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