Thailand 'edges closer toward a police state'

Thailand 'edges closer toward a police state'

One of the hallmarks of the Yingluck administration's one and a half years in office has been to induce a culture of fear and intimidation to maintain apathy among the media and the opposition in the face of eroding liberty and the destruction of freedom of speech in Thailand.

Such acts of intimidation by the Yingluck administration have gradually edged Thailand closer to a police state.

Freedom of speech in the media during the Yingluck administration first came under attack in early 2012 through the banning of Shakespeare Must Die, an adaptation of Macbeth which included scenes of characters with a close resemblance to former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra and the red shirts. The independent movie was banned for ''content that causes divisiveness among the people of the nation''.

This month, Nua Mek 2, a prime-time soap series which contains plots of corrupt politicians, including a fictitious prime minister and his crooked deputy, was abruptly taken off air. The case of Nua Mek 2 constitutes the first television ban under the Broadcasting Act of 2008.

At the same time, in attempts to intimidate the opposition, the Yingluck administration has used the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) to file countless charges against the Democrat Party.

Unsurprisingly many of these charges came from complaints originally filed by members of the ruling Pheu Thai Party and were followed through by Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yubamrung, who also chairs the DSI's special case committee.

The charges range from murder filed against party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva, to charges regarding the legality of the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration's extension of a contract for the Bangkok Mass Transit System Plc ahead of the governor elections. There is also the harassment of donors to the flood relief efforts of the Democrat government in 2010.

Donors of as little as 200 baht have been formally accused of breaking the law.

The Democrat Party maintains the DSI has abused its authority in an attempt to intimidate and silence the opposition.

In more recent developments, on Dec 13, 2013 the DSI filed charges against Mr Abhisit for donating money to the Democrats through ''improper means''.

Mr Abhisit, as with many other members of parliament affiliated with the Democrats, has voluntarily made monthly donations to the party by allowing the Secretariat of the House of Representatives to automatically deduct a certain amount from his salary and issuing a cheque in that amount to the party.

The party does not belong to, nor is it financed by any one individual.

On the contrary, it is a party of the people and therefore it relies on donations to exist and carry out its activities.

Therefore, it is customary for Democrat Party members of parliament to allow the Secretariat of the House of Representatives to deduct a certain amount of money from their salaries so the Democrat Party can use the funds for activities that go to benefit the public at large.

The DSI is setting a dangerous precedent for society for it will discourage people from engaging with and building parties that truly reflect the needs and interests of the public.

This letter represents the views of 44 members of parliament and former members of parliament from the Democrat Party.

We affirm the allegations made by the DSI and the government should not be given credence and amount to nothing more than political harassment.

We attest that political parties that are not financed by the majority will only work for the interest of the minority.

The DSI and the government are not only aiming to weaken the Democrat Party but also the roots of what makes a democracy work and thrive _ that is the principle of people's participation.

44 MEMBERS OF PARLIAMENT AND FORMER MEMBERS OF PARLIAMENT FROM THE DEMOCRAT PARTY


CONTACT: BANGKOK POST BUILDING
136 Na Ranong Road Klong Toey, Bangkok 10110
Fax: +02 2403666 email: postbag@bangkokpost.co.th

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All published correspondence is subject to editing at our discretion.

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