Thailand’s leaders have promised to restore democracy. Instead, he is tightening his grip


General Prayuth chan-ocha is at ease in the pomp of politics. Not far from the 1920s government building in Bangkok, Thailand’s prime minister was a courtier, carved in neo-gothic architecture with classical nudity and a particularly plump jade Buddha.

Affluence is a far cry from the affluence experienced as a soldier for four decades, when he was trained to brave the enemy’s fire from foxholes scattered in the jungle. Still, he was unhappy with his career away from the barracks. He said he was in power only out of a sense of responsibility. “When people are in trouble, we soldiers are there for them,” he told TIME.

Thailand’s newly appointed Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha reviews honor guards during his visit at the 2nd Infantry Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, Queen’s Guard in Chonburi province, on the outskirts of Bangkok August 21, 2014. Thailand’s coup leader General Chan-ocha was appointed prime minister on Thursday by a legislature he hand-picked, giving the army chief a veneer of legitimacy even while the military presses on with efforts to silence its critics. REUTERS/Chaiwat Subprasom (THAILAND – Tags: POLITICS MILITARY) – RTR43697

The question for Thailand is how long they will stay there. It is four years since Prayuth, 64, seized power in a coup. It was the 12th successful coup since the establishment of a constitutional monarchy in 1932, and Prayuth promised to bring the southeast Asian country’s 69 million people back to democracy quickly.

Adam ferguson time


But thais are still waiting to vote on their future. Many here and in the region fear that, under Prayuth’s watch, America’s oldest ally in Asia is experiencing a permanent decline in authoritarianism. The pattern has been replicated elsewhere in the region as China’s influence has grown and President trump has pursued his “America first” principle.

The us now seems to have less commitment than ever to any small regional ally in the 10-member association of southeast Asian nations (asean), such as Thailand. Although Mr Trump welcomed the White House in October, the Thai leader said Washington now seemed “somewhat busy with its problems”. There seems to be a distance between the United States and asean. ”

In terms of regional competition, there is no competition. “The friendship between Thailand and China has existed for thousands of years, while the United States has existed for about 200 years,” Prayuth said. “China is Thailand’s number one partner.”

Prayuth, who was born in the northeastern province of halat, began his career at the royal military academy in Chulachomklao, considered Thailand’s west point military academy. As a young officer, he won the ramathdi ipodi medal, the country’s highest honor in the field. “When I was young, patriotism was about joining the army and fighting for the country,” he said. “I told myself I had to give my life for my home and for the monarchy.”

The royal family is almost sacred in Thailand. Prayuth strengthened the relationship with the royal family, and by rioting took power in 1957, marshal Sally’s tana’s got small sa in nicknames, and helps to elevate the monarchy is the most important role in Thai society. Today, every Thai family shows the monarch as the tallest photograph in the room. The country has some of the world’s strictest royal libel laws, which are increasingly being used to silence dissent.

Many believe Prayuth’s coup was designed to ensure that Thailand’s elite remained in control during a sensitive period of royal succession. Thailand’s new king, Maha Vajiralongkorn, leads an unconventional lifestyle that does not respect others as much as his father did. Prayuth briefly said he controlled the restoration of order. “I can’t allow any further damage to my country,” he said, using something odd. “It’s on the verge of destruction.”

More than a decade, Thailand in the pull of the typical rural supporters and her brother marsh color coding of street protests, between 2001 and 2006, the prime minister, their main city rivals to the powerful palace for backing, military and judicial. Pro-inrak factions wear red. Their opponents were dressed in yellow.

Prayuth has returned Thailand to comparative advantage since 2014. Gross domestic product growth has risen to 4 per cent in 2017, according to the junta, with exports reaching a seven-year high and 35m tourists flocking to Thai beaches and temples. Infrastructure projects such as the $45 billion eastern economic corridor port, railways and factories in southeast Bangkok have been greened. “These are not four-year mandates, but now is the time to resolve problems, overcome obstacles and build stability, and move security into the future,” Prayuth said.

Exactly what the future will bring remains opaque. Peaceful demonstrators are often detained. At least 1,800 civilians have been indicted in military courts, in what human rights watch describes as a “deepening abyss of human rights violations”.


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