Thailand: And the Junta Acts as Juntas Do

From Financial Times, Asia

A political struggle over Thailand’s coup is growing beneath the country’s surface calm, as military rulers crush dissent, opposition forces mobilise in exile and western powers warn that the generals could be here to stay.

The month-old junta is now detaining people even over emblematic acts such as carrying sandwiches or reading George Orwell in public, while its enemies have set up a movement abroad modelled on the country’s second world war underground resistance.

Arrested for Reading 1984 in Public

Arrested for Reading 1984 in Public

A senior US official has warned that the latest Thai military takeover is “both more repressive and likely to last longer” than the previous one in 2006, as the generals try to quash criticism and stamp their conservative vision on politics and business.

Panels to monitor the media are being set up:

“There will be five committees set up to monitor local and international media that will report to the military daily,” Adul, a former national police chief, told Reuters by telephone. “Police will not pursue legal action against media so long as journalists are cooperative and help share news that is constructive and true. Those that spread inappropriate content may face criminal charges.”

And the police are all over any breath of protest:

Eating a sandwich: Since early June, student pro-democracy activists have handed out free sandwiches and staged quiet picnics in lieu of holding protests. Surely, the junta can’t arrest them for eating sandwiches, right?

Wrong. The sandwich activists announced a “picnic” on June 22 outside a glitzy Bangkok mall. On cue, a young Thai man showed up that afternoon. He pulled out a sandwich with trembling fingers and ate it in silence.

He was promptly surrounded by authorities and hauled off. Six others, according to the BBC, were also detained. Their offense? Possessing sandwiches with ill intent. Officers have previously thwarted “sandwich parties” in advance. Thai headlines have even warned that eating sandwiches with anti-coup intent is a criminal act.

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