Citing political unrest, the junta has shown its reluctance to allow more political freedom for politicians to prepare for the long-awaited election. Even the chairman of the junta-appointed charter drafting committee has expressed concern.
Though the Organic Act on Political Parties was endorsed on 8 October, the military government still prohibits politicians from campaigning and preparing for the long-awaited election in November next year.
According to Meechai Ruchuphan, chair of the junta-appointed Constitution Drafting Committee, if the junta continues its ban on political activity, political parties may not be able to meet the requirements under the new law for lack of time.
Despite Meechai’s concern, Army Chief Chalermchai Sittisart last week stated that the political activity ban has to remain as there are still conflicts in society.
“At present our interpretation is that conflicts still exist so there must be limits first so that there is no bad effect on the country. If we’re uncertain, we will not let go. But everything is for reaching the same destination which is the election according to the path that has been set out,” Chalermchai stated.
The Army Chief said this after the military confiscated weapons from a house in Chachoengsao on 30 November. According to Chalermchai, the weapons were connected to Wuthipong Kachathamkun, an exiled hard-core red-shirt leader who was abducted by unidentified persons in Lao PDR in July and is feared to have been murdered.
Deputy Prime Minister Gen Prawit Wongsuwan also confirmed Chalermchai’s statement, saying that the ban will only be lifted closer to the election.
However, various politicians have seen the recent weapons find as the junta’s attempt to prolong its ban on political activity
“After the mobile cabinet meeting in Songkhla, Gen Prawit said from out of nowhere that they would not let political parties free because there are movements against the NCPO government, demonstrations and slanderous attacks,” posted Plodprasop Suraswadi, a former Pheu Thai cabinet minister, on his Facebook account.
“If you [the junta] want to remain in power for a long time, you should look for something more realistic than this. Making up stories at random to show that you are big enough to determine other people’s lives is what old-school gangsters call a hooligan throwing his weight around,” Plodprasop said.
Apart from the weapons find, the junta last week also made various efforts to suppress so-called political conflicts in the country.
On 27 November, military and police officers arrested 16 individuals protesting against the planned coal-fired power plant and deep-sea port in Songkhla. The arrest took place while the protesters were marching to submit their petition to the junta leader Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha who was on a tour of Thailand’s far south.
On 2 December, soldiers and police officers visited Nachapoan Supatana, chairman of a pitbull-lover group, at his house in Bangkok and took him to the 11th Military Circle. The authorities said that they wanted to have a talk with Nachapoan since he often criticises the NCPO via Facebook live in a way that breaches the criminal sedition law.
He was released on the same day without charge and Army Chief Gen Chalermchai later told the media that the military merely asked Nachapoan to avoid using rude words on Facebook live.