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Help! The paranoids are after me!

Who is doing this to our Dear Leader?  General Prayut trots off to the US in search of more ‘oh look I’m in the same room as other world leaders so they must accept me’ photo ops and it is all promptly ruined by another burst of rampant paranoia.

He told VOA he ‘met representatives of many countries’ (see, they do talk to him so Thailand is not the international pariah that some critics claim). 

And he ‘has answered many questions’ (a skill that hopefully he will one day use when dealing with the Thai media to replace his current practice of threatening them for their supposed lack of loyalty).

But all they asked about was ‘democracy, elections, and human rights’. 

Silly them.  Don’t they realize that universal human rights are a strictly internal matter in Thailand?  And that democracy and elections have their own Thai definitions that are so quintessentially Thai that no non-Thai is capable of understanding them?

And with Section 44 invoked to allow military officers to imprison, seize assets, freeze accounts and ban travel abroad without any oversight and with total impunity, do you know why these ignorant foreigners are interested in human rights in Thailand? 

No, it’s none of the sad but true tales of oppression and persecution that fill this news site.  It’s ‘because someone told them that the government killed people, including 400-500 reporters,’ according to Gen Prayut. 

Well, yes, that would provoke a worldwide interest in human rights in Thailand.  But a few things have to happen first.  1) The allegation has to be made.  2) The allegation has to be credible.  3) And the individuals and organizations who have got up the General’s nose by expressing concern over human rights in Thailand have to believe it.

1) Who said this?  I’ve googled my socks off but the only name connected to this claim is a certain Gen Prayut, who blames it on ‘a man who had fled the country and spoke negatively about it’ and we all know who that means.  This is as credible as a Glaswegian swearing by something heard in a pub off Sauchiehall Street.

And I’m not the only one to draw a blank.  Others have searched high and low for any such statement, by Thaksin or anyone else, and come up empty-handed.  Has the allegation been made?  If so, it seems only Gen Prayut heard it.

2) Gen Prayut says the claim is not true and for once we agree.  But is the allegation credible?  It is hard to think so.  Recall the international outcry over the 2 foreign journalists shot dead by the military in the April-May 2010 violence.  Surely a 20,000-25,000% increase in fatalities would attract even greater interest. 

And what brave Thai journalist (no, no, be fair, there are a few) would dare persist in pestering the poor man with questions if they knew that 400-500 of their colleagues were in the morgue? 

3) Has anyone believed this claim?  The Committee to Protect Journalists keeps detailed records of every journalist killing in the world.  Their figures for Thailand show a total of 14 cases over the last quarter of a century. They have recorded no deaths of journalists since the junta took power.  None.  Nada.  Zilch.  And for the mathematically challenged among us, that figure is rather less than 400-500.  So they don’t believe it. 

And I have scoured statements from Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the United Nations Commission on Human Rights and they are uniformly silent on this alleged massacre.  Does anyone believe this claim?  No one that I can find.

The problem is that the country’s system of military education, aka permanent attitude adjustment, manages to instil a pathological paranoia among the military elite, who for the foreseeable future are doubling as the political elite.

Look at the things that Gen Prayut genuinely believes will lead to the end of Thai civilization as he knows it:

- any form of public disagreement no matter how civilized and respectful the debate;

- gender equity;

- allowing the people to elect anyone who is a ‘politician’ (and by being elected you automatically become a politician and therefore they should never have elected you);

- students who can think for themselves;

- even mentioning the name of You-Know-Who. 

The man doesn’t just see reds under every bed, he sees plastic red dippers and comes over with a fit of the vapours.

And as soon as he’s tirelessly whack-a-moled one threat (while tirelessly complaining that the job is tiring him out) another pops up.  And in the meantime, human rights and civil liberties are steadily eroded, the light at the end of the ‘road map to democracy’ gets smaller and smaller, the economy tanks through mistrustful mismanagement, and blow me if tomorrow he doesn’t discover another existential threat to the realm.

Commentators have suggested that the Prime Minister would benefit from a course of anger management and he himself has admitted his temper sometimes gets out of hand.  And it wouldn’t at all be a bad idea. 

But does no one have a cure for his paranoia?


About author:  Bangkokians with long memories may remember his irreverent column in The Nation in the 1980's. During his period of enforced silence since then, he was variously reported as participating in a 999-day meditation retreat in a hill-top monastery in Mae Hong Son (he gave up after 998 days), as the Special Rapporteur for Satire of the UN High Commission for Human Rights, and as understudy for the male lead in the long-running ‘Pussies -not the Musical' at the Neasden International Palladium (formerly Park Lane Empire).