Thai army chief announces crackdown on lese majeste offenders, tells them not to whine
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Thai army chief announces crackdown on lese majeste offenders, tells them not to whine

By Saksith Saiyasombut

From today’s The Nation:

Army chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha warned yesterday that there would be a series of arrests under the lese majeste law, and those arrested shouldn’t “whine” because they “should know better”.

Every time there is a gathering [of the red shirts], there are posters and graffiti [against the monarchy]. Let me inform you that we now have evidence and are in the process of making arrests. Do not whine, because we have warned you many times and you are not supposed to do that. If you did it because you didn’t know better, then please go ask your parents. If your parents don’t know then go ask those who are above them. From our grandparents’ generation down to the present, we have been looked after by the monarchy, no matter which king. (…)

“Let me ask, how old are you? I saw that many of you are quite young,” he said, referring to those who allegedly wrote the anti-monarchist messages in public areas. “Are you aware of what you are doing? You ought to reflect upon yourselves and your parents if they have benefited from the King’s grace or not. If not, then there have been many others who have benefited… Those who have committed these wrongs should be punished. We have [evidence] in websites, posters and graffiti. We have all the pictures and we must see when they will be persecuted.”

Army chief warns of arrests over lese majeste“, The Nation, October 26, 2010

General Prayuth partly refers to the anti-monarchy graffiti that were written during the red shirts protests from September 19 of this year. Many of them were written on a large billboard at the construction site of the heavily destroyed Central World shopping mall, displaying in large font the slogan “Everything will be alright”. 

This announcement also further evidence of an increasing outspokenness and political activity of the commander-in-chief since he was promoted at the beginning of this month. Unlike his predecessor General Anupong Paochinda, who hesitated to make broad public political announcements, General Prayuth has been very keen to point out that the task to protect the monarchy is paramount and “to [get] rid of some individuals who violate the institution” – which is clearly evident by yesterday’s announcement. 

Paul L. Quaglia undermines this in a recent story in the Wall Street Journal. Key excerpt:

In the short term, the military’s influence on civilian governance could be positive and stabilizing. Prime Minister Abhisit has so far proven a lame-duck leader. (…) This governance vacuum worries many Thais, who see an unstable global economic recovery and a strengthening baht. Political instability is also a concern, given that red-shirt demonstrations in Bangkok have restarted, and former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has announced that he will manage the opposition Puea Thai Party’s campaign in the next election.

That makes General Prayuth’s recent statement that he would not hesitate to use force to “protect the monarchy” or “to ensure order” more than just a statement of military intent. For many Thais, “order” is what they are longing for. (…)

That may be the kind of leadership that General Prayuth aims to provide, although his personal political views are unclear. He has not discussed elections or the government’s plans for political “reconciliation” with disaffected pro-democracy supporters. But if Thai history teaches one thing, it’s that Thais should be wary of anyone who promises to restore order. Democratic reform, governance transparency and public accountability could be the casualties.

The Thai Army Stands Up“, by Paul L. Quaglia, Wall Street Journal, October 17, 2010

Also, in a separate announcement on Monday regarding the upcoming visit by UN secretary-general Ban-Ki Moon, General Prayuth has warned the public not to hold any political gatherings since there’s (still) a state of emergency in the capital, urging would-be offenders to think about the country’s image – a clear image of what the commander-in-chief may have in mind, but cannot possibly expect everybody to agree with him.

Saksith Saiyasombut is a Thai blogger and journalist based in Hamburg, Germany. He can be followed on Twitter @Saksith.