Washington Post to Obama: Don’t accept a phony democracy in Thailand
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Washington Post to Obama: Don’t accept a phony democracy in Thailand

The Washington Post in an editorial:

Despite the army’s desperate attempt to win over the public — through a “happiness” campaign of free haircuts, concerts and World Cup telecasts — these autocratic reforms will be rejected by a majority of the country. The rural poor, having lived through two coups and two major protest crackdowns, value political rights more than freebies from the military. Ongoing human rights abuses further alienate them. These violations have alienated pro-democracy supporters who previously had no sympathy for Mr. Thaksin.

The junta can continue down its repressive path, which will likely lead to unrest. Or, mindful of public opinion, it can restore civil liberties and return the country to democratic rule before fall 2015, as promised. This latter option must come with a constitution approved by referendum, with an elected legislature and mechanisms to ensure neutrality in the judiciary.

The Obama administration has rightly condemned the coup as having “no justification,” suspended half of Thailand’s aid and canceled some joint military exercises. But it’s also signaled a willingness to dial back some of the pressure by deciding not to move the regional Cobra Gold military exercises out of Thailand. The big test is whether it will play along if the junta imposes a phony democracy.

BP: The signs are not good (see here and here) that there will be a referendum over the constitution to be drafted next year, but we are still waiting for confirmation about this in the interim constitution. Restoring civil liberties also does not appear to be on the agenda as the junta has threatened to shut down media outlets that criticise the junta and refuse to publish news that the junta tells them to.

Since the coup, the junta has moved Thailand closer to China and BP views that one of the reasons for this is to push the US to back down on their rhetoric about the coup. The question will be, what will be the response of the US (and also the EU and other democratic countries) in response to what the junta is doing in Thailand? BP is not talking about in the very immediate future, but more about their response to the interim constitution, if Prayuth or another senior military officer becomes PM, the content of the draft constitution etc. The response to the coup is one thing, but the junta has more planned….