Red bowls, balloons, leaflets attack the charter underwritten by the military. Toys with messages call for freedom and democracy, while people stand still in public, read George Orwell’s 1984 or even eat sandwiches.
These are the things deemed a threat to national security?
Some wonder, could things get even zanier?
The answer is yes.
A Prachatai.com news reporter was arrested July 3 and charged with violating the Referendum Act, which forbade campaigning before the Aug. 7 charter referendum and disseminating documents deemed “misleading” to the public about its contents.
All the reporter, Taweesak Kerdpoka, did was “embed” himself in a car belonging to the New Democracy Movement campaigners who had anti-charter documents inside the vehicle.
This led Paris-based Reporters Without Borders’ regional head Benjamin Ismail to not only demand the charge be dropped but ask where such exercise of power would end.
“As if violating the fundamental freedoms of assembly and opinion were not enough, the authorities are compounding their crimes by also violating freedom of information and media freedom. What will come next? Arresting the journalists who cover these arbitrary arrests?”
Absurd though situation may be, there’s an underlying logic in the the exercise of illogical dictatorial power, however. Those perplexed by the increasingly illogical dictates of the junta should recognize that effective dictatorial power must by nature be illogical.
The more absurd the use of dictatorial power is, the more effective it becomes
Because dictatorial power is illegitimate, it cannot withstand scrutiny or objection. Thus people under a dictatorial regime must be tamed into customary obedience. Like a prisoner. It helps to quickly adjust and accept the new reality without asking why the conditions are so bad.
The more absurd the use of dictatorial power is, the more effective it becomes, as people are likely to become jaded and eventually abandon rational scrutiny of such power.
The logic of dictatorial power is thus: The more absurd and illogical the order the better, for people will end up accustomed to following the next and the next one. Such absurd orders must be given out often and repeatedly because dictators are permanently insecure in their power due to the awareness they are without legitimacy.
Of course a dictator’s power is most effective when clothed in the language of law.
It always sounds good for anyone to be a law-abiding citizen, and dictators can simply say they are maintaining the sacrosanct nature of the law – never mind they are arbitrary dictums from an unlawful squatter.
Making dictatorial rules camouflages the illegal and illegitimate natures of the coup makers.
The dictator, in this case Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha, can always say that no harm will ever befall you if you don’t break the law. This should actually read like – you will be free and fine as long as you don’t challenge or break Prayuth’s law.
For those intellectually inclined, there’s always the excuse the junta is just in power reluctantly and temporarily (as Prayuth’s song once reminded, “please give us a little more time” for nearly two years), so please bear with them and do not point out the obvious absurdity of the whole situation.
There are people who remain unconvinced by the absurdity of dictatorial power, however. These people ask logical questions such as, why was any public campaign for or against the junta-sponsored charter draft criminalized? Is this not absurd? To these people, the dictator could rely on the standard autocratic rhetoric reminding them that: “I am the law,” “I have absolute power,” “Don’t dare question or challenge me!” blah, blah, blah.