As long-time readers know, H. Numan is not just our Dutch correspondent, he is also our Bangkok correspondent. In the latter capacity, he sends this much-needed update on the latest political goings-on in Thailand.
Meanwhile, back in Bangkok
by H. Numan
I haven’t written about Thailand for a long time. There’s a good reason for that: we had several military coups. Generals generally don’t like to be criticized, and ours are no exception. As both the Baron and I can’t afford legal fees, better be safe than sorry. Also, his late majesty King Bhumibol died. His successor is king Maha Vajiralongkorn, his son. King Bhumibol reigned from 1950 to 2016; that’s 76 years. His reign was the longest ever in Thai history, and one of the longest rulers of all time. The new king is therefore no spring chicken. At 64 he is the oldest ruler of Thailand ever to ascend to the throne. Currently queen Elisabeth II of the United Kingdom holds the title of longest-ruling monarch.
Now, about that criticism generals and kings don’t like: Thailand has the strictest lèse-majesté laws, not on this planet, rather in the entire solar system. Any criticism can — and must — be prosecuted by the authorities. The punishment is 12 years in jail, for each offense. Offenses can be cumulative: someone liked 6 ‘wrong’ pictures of the king on Facebook a couple of years back, and got 6 x 12 = 72 years. Under Thai law the sentence can be reduced by half by the court if the suspect cooperates, which he did. So this chappie only has to serve a mere 36 years for liking something incorrect on Facebook. It’s also an excellent way to get even with people you have a quarrel with: when you submit a charge of lèse-majesté, the police must investigate it by law, even if they know it’s a trumped-up charge.
The generals were quite keen on using the lèse-majesté laws to get opponents off the streets. The last coup happened in 2014, and is about to be ended with ‘democratic’ elections to be held on the 24th of March. Strict censorship is still in place, but a bit relaxed. So I don’t have to worry too much about getting 12 years or more in jail. Let’s update you folks what’s happening in the land of the smileys:
Living in Thailand I am amazed how the Thais can get away with just about anything. We have had a full-blown mohammedan uprising in the three southernmost provinces bordering on Malaysia since 2004. Sometimes the terrorists expand their activities outside those provinces. The two most infamous of those attacks were the one at the Erawan shrine in 2014, and the Mother’s Day bombing on 12 August 2015, almost to the day a year later. Those two were by far the worst terrorist attacks ever in Thailand.
The Mother’s Day bombing was a series of bomb attacks in Bangkok and the southern part of Thailand with, 17 victims. The attack on the Erawan shrine — which is, incidentally, within easy walking distance of my house — was the worst attack ever, with over 20 victims.
Technically the attack on the Erawan shrine wasn’t done by our own home grown mozzies, but by Uighurs. A few weeks before Thailand extradited 200 of them back to China. The Uighurs didn’t like that and took revenge. Uighurs are, by the way, also muslims, but from China.
Those two attacks made international headlines, but the day-to-day violence since 2004? Rarely. Don’t underestimate it. Since 2004 more than 7,500 people have died due to mohammedan violence. That’s more than both intifadas and the Northern Irish civil war combined.
It’s a real mess down south. Teachers and government officials are regularly targeted. So much so that teachers get guns, ammunition, training and severance pay from the government. A full army corps is necessary to keep some semblance of law and order. Without any attention whatsoever from the international media…
The same goes for corruption. The generals who committed the last coup in 2014 said they did it to combat corruption. Now, we had a funny little incident that show how sincere they are. Vice Premier General Prawit Wongsuwan was seen wearing a very expensive watch. Someone discovered he hadn’t declared that watch when he took office. So people started paying attention what he was wearing. It turned out he had a whole collection of very expensive and undeclared watches, about 24 of them. Not to mention undeclared expensive diamond rings as well.