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The Thai Military and western democracy


The foreign media are continuing not to comment in a balanced way on all aspects of the military government’s actions since the coup in May. The emphasis has been on the validity of a coup in a democracy. (the argument that “coups are always bad; democracies always good”)

The acceptance by the majority of Thais that the NCPO is tackling some of the issues of corruption and replacing or moving key officials is not mentioned. The Friday evening broadcasts by General Prayuth, which I admit come across as a little propagandist in places, list by name the officials involved and detail the changes the military are bringing about to reduce corruption and bring in more transparency.

The case of Jack Hansen is a prime example of how the military are intervening in practices which former elected governments – of either political persuasion – did not see fit to involve themselves.

An account of the case can be seen here:

Already Thailand’s military led National Council for Peace and Order has expressed concern over the attack on Jack and insisted on being present when Koh Samui police flew into interview Jack in Bangkok a week ago.

A spokesman said: “We wish to re-assure the mother that there will be transparency and have sent that message to police.”

Apart from The Mail group of newspapers, the foreign press are not being restricted or censored in Thailand. There is therefore no reason why they couldn’t present the news in a fair and unbiased fashion and let readers decide for themselves on the truth of the situation. Let the facts speak for themselves.

(The Mail seemingly fell foul of the rules of accurate journalism some months ago as far as the Thais are concerned and are now reeling angrily on being banned. Even their excellent expose of the police treatment of Sir Cliff Richard cannot be seen in the country.)

Most Thais are cynical about western democracy. They see everyone celebrating the concept of elected democracies, choosing politicians via the ballot box, and open debate in parliament. But they also see lobby groups and influential entities such as the banks riding roughshod over the wishes of the electorate as expressed in party manifestos. They don’t take that as democracy and dislike being lectured by the West on how that sort of democracy should be followed in Thailand.

Back in 2011, Barclays chief Bob Diamond argued that the “time for remorse and apology” among bankers was “over”. Within a year, he was ousted over the Libor manipulation scandal but there were no criminal charges or prosecutions. Elected democratic governments should do more than giving mere taps on the wrist for men behaving badly. HSBC were fined millions for misselling and rate fixing. There were no criminal charges or prosecutions. And who paid those fines? They were recouped through your bank charges.

Bankers need to show a better understanding of why it’s necessary for there to be regulation and to accept that their culture of acceptance of a light touch regime, supported by the compliant democratic governments of all the political parties, is wrong.

The think tank ResPublica suggested (mischievously) the idea of a Hippocratic oath for bankers. “There could be an annual event, a bit like the Trooping of the Colour, with a regiment of forex traders and bonus hungry bank salesmen marching behind a company of investment advisors, while the Bank of England governor takes the salute.



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  1. Matt Owens Rees permalink

    I don’t have a pathological loathing for the Thais, I agree corruption won’t be eliminated, I’ve already commented on that but it is not merely “being rearranged” that’s too simplistic in my view. You presumably don’t know the extent of the NCPO’s work lowering corruption at That Airways. Summary repeated on the news last night, and can be independently checked. The previous institutions were corrupt because of their leaders. I do have concerns that the clean-up may not work. There are signs of over reaction which I had hoped would not occur. And the nominations could have been more broadly spread. We can’y however go back to a corrupt and self-centred system that did not work.


  2. Matt Owens Rees permalink

    Some good point, Christine. I think most Thais are suspicious of western democracy, particularly those who have been educated abroad or have stayed overseas. I had not mentioned lobby groups in Thailand and you are right to draw attention to that. As in the West, ballot box elections don’t influence these powerful groups. It’s the anti-corruption measures that have swung opinion towards the military. The danger is the military will “get too big for their boots” Last Friday’s broadcast was more assertive than I would have liked. The number of LM cases has not increased significantly. Many were anyway thrown out by the courts. The police have no discretion, they have to investigate and take to court. Wrongly, that allows politically motivated cases to be brought. No action has been taken on fragrant LM offences by farangs on Facebook and New Mandala. I’d like to see LM watered down to only being used if the monarchy is disrespected and for the ordinary laws of libel and slander to be used instead.

    Thanks for replying with a well thought out opinion


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