Should we be delighted or disturbed that junta leader Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha’s declared this week that he’s now a politician?
Prayuth, who also occupies the post of prime minister, surprised many Wednesday when he said his soldiering days were done and that he was now a politician.
“I have to change today because I am not a soldier. Do you understand? [I am] a politician who used to be a soldier, so I still carry some soldier habits,” Prayuth told the press on Wednesday.
Those welcoming this news regard it as a sign that elections are on the horizon and Prayuth willing to submit himself to becoming a more restricted post-election PM as made possible by the 2017 junta-sponsored constitution.
This would be better than endless, direct military rule with Prayuth wielding absolute power, wouldn’t it? Some even applauded the 63-year-old retired general for being honest that he has finally morphed into a politician, three years and eight months after leading the 2014 coup.
This may be too optimistic, however, for Prayuth is still a dictator today, with absolute power guaranteed by the current charter until a new elected government reports to work.
What kind of politician is unelected, holds absolute power and bans others from engaging in politics or even meeting?
Answer: a junta leader who’s turned in his stars for cufflinks to disguise himself as a junta politician.
While the traditional variety of corrupt politician may rely on money, patronage and nepotism, the junta politician owes his career to guns and tanks and the supported of those more than fed up with abusive and “corrupt” elected politicians.
Should we be delighted that this breed of politician, the junta politician, may control Thailand for the next five years, if not longer?
Why should anyone rejoice at the prospect of long-term military entrenchment in Thai politics under the guise of an elected government with an Upper House virtually handpicked for five years by junta leader, oops, politician Prayuth?
Masking military rule, which is obviously illegitimate in the eyes of many, under a seemingly legitimate elected government risks further perverting Thai democracy, which is already suffering from a handful of powerful traditional politicians.
This semi-military rule would gain a veneer of legitimacy by way of the ballot, if it prevails in the promised election, now believed to either be late this year or early the next.
While I am not for endless rule by Prayuth as military dictator, I am alarmed by Prayuth the wannabe politician.
Hybrid military rule under the guise of an elected government will further blur the line between what is legitimate and not.
There seems to be no other option at present as opposition to current military rule is feeble and mostly exists only in virtual reality, on social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter.
Absent a third choice, pro-democracy groups will have to chart new terrain for struggles under what could be an elected, proxy military government.
The struggle gets more complex if traditional politicians collude to prop up the elected military government by joining a military-aligned party.
Prayuth may shed his uniform, but he is deepening military interference in our civilian and political life.
Beware the dictator donning a lounge suit and claiming to be a politician. It’s just another form of camouflage, albeit for the battle of the ballot box.
Junta leader Prayuth as camouflaged politician is simply another attempt at continuing military rule under the guise of an elected government.