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Martial law and the unconvincing excuses of the CNS

 

Council for National Security spokesperson Col Sansern Kaewkamnerd told reporters after a CNS meeting on Sept 17 that martial law would remain in force in 27 provinces including Pattani and those along the border; the number decreased from 35 previously. This might cheer up the urban middle class a little bit as a good sign of improvement in the situation, economic in particular.

 

But it might be not fair for the people living in those areas. The CNS cited as reasons for maintaining martial law the problems of drug trafficking and illegal immigration. That raises a few questions.

 

  1. There are already relevant state agencies responsible for the drugs and immigration problems. Does it mean that the problems have worsened or those agencies are ineffective? More information should be revealed to the public.

  2. The problems are sensitive issues concerning international relationships and human rights. How is the military qualified to handle such issues?

  3. 5 provinces, including Ratchaburi, Prachuab Khiri Khan, Phetchaburi (to be removed from martial law this time), Chumphon and Prachinburi (removed in January 2007) are border provinces which also have the problems similar to those in the North and Northeast. Why does the CNS not include these provinces? Or is it just that these provinces voted for the charter in the referendum, so they pose no threats?

 

There are 3 more provinces in the Northeast on which the CNS announced the re-imposition of martial law - Nakhon Phanom, Nong Khai, and Mukdahan. Please consider the figures below

 

Ranks of provinces that vote ‘No' in the charter referendum

 

Province

No. of ‘No' votes

Percentage of ‘No' votes

Votes for Thai Rak Thai party list (2005)

Difference between ‘No' votes and TRT votes in 2005

1

Nakhon Phanom

209,016

76.42

179,478

29,538

2

Roi Et

374,774

76.03

334,785

39,989

3

Mukdahan

104,907

75.24

49,709

55,198

4

Nong Khai

243,007

73.57

258,124

-15,117

Source: Matichon, Aug 22, 2007

 

The three provinces where martial law has been re-imposed rank 1st, 3rd and 4th in the list of provinces by the percentage of ‘No' votes in the referendum. When the number of ‘No' votes and the votes for Thai Rak Thai party in the 2005 general election are compared, the CNS must have found the result unpleasant as the disapproving votes in many provinces in the North and Northeast were significantly higher than what Thai Rak Thai received two years earlier.

 

Therefore, it is understandable why these three provinces were added, and it is in line with what CNS chief Gen Sonthi Bunyaratkalin said after hearing the results of the referendum in August. "The internal security agencies can easily solve this problem in the future, as the armies are there. Soldiers are from Isan. They can talk to the people." (Thai Rath, Wednesday 22 Aug, 2007)

 

Is this what the Isan people will receive after they came out to cast their votes in the referendum which the junta said was part of the return to democracy? I believe if the CNS could have come up with a reasonable justification, other provinces far from the border but with similar referendum results, like Roi Et, would have been put under martial law as well.

 

In a democratic society, differing views are considered normal. But the junta sees them as a problem to get fixed. What bars the democratic development, differing opinions among the people or the junta's thinking? And what problems is martial law supposed to address, Thailand's political problems or the junta's own problems?

 

For the urban people, martial law may not be a problem or may even be good for their security, as long as it does not have an economic impact on them. They might feel excited about military tanks or armoured vehicles, and take photographs of their children with them. But the rural poor would call their children home, and close the doors, perhaps because they have different memories of state power.

 

The unjustified continued imposition of martial law can only be read as an effort to maintain the military's sphere of power so that it can have its hands on the upcoming general election to ensure the results it wants to see. In fact, its mere presence is intimidating enough for the rural poor. And another reason may be the 2008 budget for security which is a massive 219,690.3 million baht.

 

After the referendum, the junta considers the poor who hold a different view on the charter to be a problem, so it intends to fix the problem with its military might. It should know better that the military might is not a solution. History has given us lessons, be it the fight with the Communist Party of Thailand, Oct 1973 and 1976, the May 1992 bloodshed, the ongoing unrest in the deep South, and most recently, the Sept 19 coup.

 

The key to peaceful co-existence with differences among people in society is equality: equality under the law, to hold different views, to access welfare and development, etc.

 

What the CNS should do now is to lift martial law across the country, and return to the barracks, as soldiers are supposed to do in a democracy.

 

If the junta thinks that the Thai military's main task is to develop democracy in the country, which means waiting for the right time for a coup d'etat, then considering the statistic of 11 successful coups out of 25 attempts in the course of 75 years, I am aware of the difficulty the junta is having to find reasons to prolong its power. I can only suggest the top brass consult their allies like the People's Alliance for Democracy, the Campaign for Popular Democracy, the People's Assembly for Democracy, and even their fellows in the Burmese junta to find more convincing excuses to prolong their power or even to stage another coup.

 


Source: 
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