Time to Leave the Military Dictatorship Cave?

Junta chairman Prayuth Chan-ocha (front) in an undated photo.
Junta chairman Prayuth Chan-ocha (front) in an undated photo.

Re•tention: Pravit Rojanaphruk

The much-reported Luang cave rescue saga in Chiang Rai has proven too tempting not to try a political analogy, comparing Thailand under military junta to Thais being trapped inside a cave of military dictatorship.

Here’s my take on it.



Military Dictatorship Cave

Being trapped inside the military dictatorship cave means you don’t exactly know when you can get out and enjoy basic political rights, including electoral rights.

The military dictatorship cave is dark, as censorship and self-censorship abound – and people who don’t like it dwell in fear. Those against the malevolent guardian spirit of the cave – the junta – face arbitrary arrest and detention, euphemistically known as “attitude adjustment.”

To be safe and secure inside the cave, one must either support the malevolent guardian spirit – or at least keep quiet – so it has mercy on you.


The Rescue

At Luang Nang Non cave, foreign diving experts played a crucial role in the successful rescue effort after more than two weeks of search and rescue. However, for the military dictatorship cave, western states have more or less given up pressuring the junta in any meaningful way after four years of military rule and cave dwelling.

They invariably now recite the junta’s repeatedly-delayed promise of general elections in February 2019.

In extricating oneself from the cave and its junta guardian spirit, led by junta leader Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha, one cannot rely on foreign states, local experts or Thai Navy SEALs as in Luang Cave. One has to rely on oneself and act collectively.


Dictatorial Military Cave Dweller

There are however people who will happily continue to reside inside the military dictatorship cave for fear of a worse predicament for Thailand if they leave. These people are afraid of change, have no faith or have lost faith in electoral democracy, human rights and freedom of expression.

They believe in dictatorial military cave existence as an abode of political stability through the curbing of political freedom and human rights.

These cave dwellers feel the world outside is too corrupt, unstable and unpredictable and continue to root for cave dwelling as the solution to all the political and social ills plaguing society.

What’s more, the do what they can to prevent others – who may see light at the end of the cave – and disagree about leaving the cave or being rescued by outsiders.

For many Thais, military dictatorship cave dwelling has become a norm over the past four years since the May 2014 coup. It’s a political cave of their own making. These Thais do not want to leave – and they do not want others to leave.


To them, the military dictatorship cave is a safe and secure environment and they do not believe in light at the end of the tunnel. They would rather continue to dwell in the darkness and dampness than face the uncertainty and chaos outside.

It doesn’t really bother them that other Thais may have suffocated inside for the past four years.

They have given themselves to the guardian spirit and are not inclined to leave unless the situation deteriorates to the point where they themselves feel suffocated and unable to breathe – and by then it may be too late.