Submitted on Thu, 2015-03-19 14:28
While optimists wait for the promised general election early next year, pessimists like me monitor the corrosive effects that continued military rule is having on Thai society and wonder about its long-term repercussions.
Signs of military rule and martial law affecting citizens' basic rights and liberty are clearly visible.
Last week, when the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Thailand (FCCT) held its first discussion on Thai politics since the May 2014 coup, the organiser said the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) had warned the club not to allow any criticism of the NCPO.
Given that the junta is controlling every aspect of Thai politics for nearly 10 months now, forbidding criticism of the junta while talking about politics is like asking people to walk without using their feet.
At the end of the discussion, FCCT president Jonathan Head politely thanked the junta, saying the club was "grateful" to the NCPO for allowing the discussion to go ahead.
Though I know that Head is an upright BBC journalist, I still couldn't help feeling upset over the fact that the oppressed have to thank the oppressor. Upon tweeting my thoughts, Head got back saying thanking the junta was more "form than substance" and that there's a need to widen the space for political debate.
Of course, I can't blame either Head or the FCCT, because I too had to sign an agreement after my seven-day detention without charge as a condition for my release. Under the agreement, I had to promise that I would not aid, join or lead an anti-junta movement.
Yet, those who care about basic civil rights can't help but be saddened by the current predicament, which is bound to continue for at least another year if not longer. We now live in a society where those who try to defend democracy are arrested, while those who support military dictatorship are rewarded.
Take, for instance, the recent case of pro-democracy activist Pansak Srithep, a member of the Resistant Citizens group who was arrested on Saturday shortly after he began his march. He was not calling for the removal of the NCPO or an end to martial law - he just wanted the authorities to stop trying civilians in the military court.
The fact that these practices have become normal is very disturbing. Military rule is implicitly and explicitly encouraging citizens to believe that might is right, that a law should be obeyed regardless of its legitimacy or suitability.
A society where citizens merely obey the law without wondering if the usage of the law is legitimate or not is doomed to docility.
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha keeps calling on people to respect the law, yet he himself appears to be exempt considering he led a coup that was illegal by any standard.
When people accept the abnor-mal as normal, society itself becomes anomalous.
To add insult to injury, the NCPO keeps telling us that it is working toward restoring democracy for Thailand. Yet at a time when democracy cannot be defended, let us at least try and maintain democratic logic and call a spade a spade.