Brave the third wave
The regime is about set to spring the third wave of its plan to extend government by elites. They're careful plans and they seem foolproof. But we will continue to live in interesting times, because not all military attacks proceed as planned.
Wave One was the 2014 coup. That was ambush more than attack, with defences lulled by the coupmakers' incessant insistence they had absolutely no intention of overthrowing popular power, or taking sides in a red-yellow battle.
Wave Two was the 2016 referendum on the military-written, junta-approved constitution. All opposition was squashed to leave the outcome in no doubt, and opponents writhing.
And now. It is as certain as April rain that a general election will be held in less than a year. The general prime minister hasn't announced a date, which is only assumed to be Nov 18 or 25. And the respected foreign expert, Ajarn Duncan McCargo, points that the date is also subject to adjustment by the coming royal ceremony, where by "adjustment" we mean "2019".
As during the lead-up to the referendum, the lead-up to the election will feature military enforcement of so-called "laws" against favouring candidates, criticising candidates, analysing procedures, holding biased meetings and more. The aim of the "laws" is to intimidate.
But holding a vote is now to the advantage of the general prime minister.
Voting plans call for a mix and match of the very best parts of the referendum and the election of the National People's Congress of China of October 2017-February 2018.
The referendum, according to The New York Times, "limited public assemblies and threatened long prison terms for people who spread [negative] information". On the other hand, the best part of the Chinese NPC, according to The New York Times, is that it "is a carefully crafted pageant intended to convey the image of a transparent, responsive government".
(Point of order. The New York Times is not completely right. The regime did not "threaten" long prison terms for unpatriotic people who opposed the constitution draft. It prosecuted, demanded and won long prison terms. No threats were actually involved, just promises.)
And all credit to him. Gen Prayut's metamorphosis from gun-toting, starched-fatigues, four-star coupmaker to briefcase-toting Saville Row hustings hustler was so slow it actually made front-page headlines in the downmarket dailies when the general prime minister pointed it out himself.
He thought no one had noticed and finally burst out of his uncomfortable closet. "I am no longer a soldier. I am a politician who used to be a soldier."
Gosh gee willikers, really? We never would have guessed. Like, who saw that coming except for 70 million citizens and every foreign diplomat and news vulture?
There's certain planning and timing, of course. With his "secret" now revealed, the general prime minister can hit the road. He no longer has to pretend to be the head of a mobile cabinet meeting. He can openly -- and this is Similarity 627 between the US and Thailand -- pretend to be conducting inquiries into whether people are demanding that he stay on, reluctantly but patriotically, to lead the country at the time of its greatest need.
If all goes as planned, the election campaign will be short and brutal to democrats. The model of the August 2016 constitutional referendum will punish any actual politicking that is not for pro-military candidates. Voting day, from 7am to 3pm, will be free, fair and peaceful, just as if it were a real election.
But the results, according to the present planning, will be a shambles. There will be no party with a majority. Politicians will do what politicians always do. They will try to form a coalition government. They will fail because military officers not constrained by electioneering rules will ensure they fail.
By New Year's Eve, five or six weeks after the polls close (assuming there's an election in late November), planners believe that the loudest voices will be requesting -- no, scratch that -- will be begging the current general prime minister to please take over as prime minister.
In a completely democratic, will-of-the-nation way of course.
That's the plan.
Now, will the plan work? Every general officer of every military in the world knows the rule here. Perfect plans aren't. If your attack is going well, you've walked into an ambush. No plan survives contact with the enemy, who in this case are democrats who want to end Section 44 and unbelievably want to allow people a say in government and its accountability.