Govt 'victories' become our nightmares

Govt 'victories' become our nightmares

Being overly critical of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) may not help if you want to be in a state of sanity while gauging its three-year performance and trying to understand why the regime and its cheerleaders still think it has done a great job and should prolong its stay in power.

You just need to open up your mind, lock up or adjust your attitudes and set aside universal logic and ethical principles (plus drink a few glasses of wine), if you want to look at the regime's achievements from its perspective.

I admit that, at first, I was mystified by Suthep Thaugsuban's plea last week for Prime Minister and NCPO head Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha to keep the top job for five more years without the need for elections. He must have drunk himself in oblivion, I thought, as critics and even some supporters of the regime started to voice their rebukes over its failure to deliver in key areas, from the economy to so-called national reform, security to happiness-making, as the NCPO marked its third anniversary on Monday.

But then, when trying to wear the hat of either the military or one of its No.1 cheerleaders like Mr Suthep, who led street protests in 2013-2014 that gave the pretext for the coup, I began to realise that the NCPO has delivered numerous achievements.

First of all, there has been drastic political reform. A new constitution was drafted by accidental hero jurists, appointed by the military, and smoothly passed in the referendum last year.

The new charter will entrench the military power for at least five more years, allowing it to select 250 senators who will be much more powerful than their predecessors.

Decentralisation has been compromised. Elections of local administrators have been frozen.

The charter and several NCPO orders have lurched Thailand backward into a political system applied four decades ago when bureaucrats had a greater say in the nation's administration and a non-elected prime minister could be a choice. If you are nostalgic about the past, now it is your chance to live it.

Additionally, we cannot sit idly by without applauding the military-appointed lawmakers -- more than half of them are soldiers -- for the marvellous progress in inventing at least 239 laws.

They know best what needs to be drafted to govern the ways we live without having to consult us or seek the nod from our representatives. Notably, they have invented and revised laws to save us from cyber crimes and other security threats. We just have to sacrifice our privacy and risk being branded as criminals.

The most outstanding, champagne-toasting victory was its ability to successfully remove all the hurdles put up against the 36-billion-baht submarine procurement plans by previous elected governments.

The list is long and I have to stop here before feeling suffocated. I had to invent these fanciful beliefs and a world of which I can be submissive to in order to be content about the state we live in, the government's performance, and a possible delay in elections.

But many cash-strapped Thais who are bearing the brunt of the sagging economy, and whose freedom and liberties have been stripped, may not want to live in this invented world. And I don't blame them.

Those victories of the regime are simply our long-term nightmares. They are regressive changes that would never have been allowed under any elected governments.

The regime may deliver in certain areas, such as human trafficking and illegal and unregulated fishing. But these can actually be achieved by elected governments or their bureaucracies without the need for a coup.

On the contrary, its key promises of reconciliation, graft busting and political stability, where many of us expected it to deliver, seem to be going nowhere.

And as we reel from the shock of the latest hospital bomb attack, Gen Prayut did not spare us bad news when he said more bombs and threats could delay the election. He seemed to use public safety fears as a ransom for his regime to extend its stay.

Thais have lived in fear for over a decade. We have feared corruption and self-serving politicians and many of us called for military intervention. But take a look at the military government we've got now. Was it worth it?

Our generals may be quietly toasting those "achievements" which are, in fact, our losses. Their victories remind us that we need to stop being a fearful nation and stop calling for coups to solve political woes, before it is too late.

Surasak Glahan is deputy editorial pages editor, Bangkok Post.

Surasak Glahan

Deputy Op-ed Editor

Surasak Glahan is deputy op-ed editor of the Bangkok Post.

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