New govt, same threats
In exchange for police protection against future assaults, the police have set democracy advocate Sirawith "Ja New" Seritiwat, who was brutally attacked by unidentified men on June 24, one condition: Stay away from political activism. It sounds more like a warning.
The message is uncalled-for and nauseating. It's like blaming a rape on a victim's revealing outfit and telling her how to dress to avoid it while letting the rapist get away with the crime.
It is not too difficult to understand why the police have come up with such a warning. It reflects the reality that the new "elected government" of coup maker-turned-politician Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha is unlikely to do away with his military regime's suppression of political dissent, a campaign spearheaded by security officials nationwide over the past five years.
The police's message also gained strong backing from Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon, who has been in charge of security and will likely take up the same job in the new administration.
And while the police have offered Mr Sirawith conditional protection, they have failed to identify the perpetrators and bring them to justice, even though there were security cameras installed at the location in Bangkok where he was assaulted in broad daylight.
The police's inability to punish these and other such attackers is nothing new to Mr Sirawith and political activists who have been assaulted many times before without any suspects having been prosecuted for the crimes.
This has even prompted rumours of state involvement in a campaign of intimidation.
The police's condition for Mr Sirawith reflects similar warnings that security officials have delivered to activists, students, academics and politicians in past years during their "visits" to homes and workplaces as part of a suppression campaign sanctioned by Gen Prayut's National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO). Many have also been arrested and slapped with criminal charges for their political activities such as peaceful demonstrations or criticising the regime.
More recently, other dissidents said policemen paid visits to their houses in Bangkok. Anusorn Unno, dean of Thammasat University's Faculty of Sociology and Anthropology, wrote on his Facebook page that plainclothes policemen came to his house on Monday and asked his family to confirm that he lived there. The visit came a day after him giving a speech at a forum that criticised the coup.
Another activist who received a police visit on the same day is Prajin Thanangkorn. Mr Prajin is one of five political campaigners who were indicted by prosecutors in May for their role in a rally to demand elections and oppose the NCPO last year. The court released them on bail while they are fighting the case.
What happened to them recently implies that state surveillance on activists remains ongoing and the same kind of heavy-handed suppression of political dissent can be expected under the new civilian government.
The NCPO has already ensured that such a campaign will be led by the military. It has issued an order to transfer its key functions to the military-led Internal Security Operations Command (Isoc) upon its dissolution when the new government is in place.
This is highly disturbing. People should not be threatened by the authorities simply because they want to exercise their right under the constitution to express their opinions.
That is the rule of a repressive military regime, not a civilian one.
Bangkok Post editorial column
These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.
Email : firstname.lastname@example.org
- military regime
- political dissent