In all seriousness, contrary to Gen. Sonthi’s declarations, the coup has not solved Thailand’s political woes.
In fact, one sense that things have gotten worse given the clampdown on civil liberties, the multi-factions of coup supporters and dissenters, and the escalation of violence in the South.
On International Human Rights Day, Supinya Klangnarong, secretary-general of the Campaign for Popular Media Reform, was reported by the Bangkok Post as saying that when people “were fighting the now-ousted Thaksin administration, [they] felt safe because [they] had the constitution in place, which secured [their] rights of expression and to meet for political gathering... Unfortunately, that growing movement was abruptly ended by the coup d'etat.” Other rights groups “led by the Union for Civil Liberty and the Coordinating Committee of Human Rights Organisations in Thailand pressed for the same protection of freedoms stipulated by the suspended 1997 Constitution”.
Added on to this is 1000-people strong demonstration at Sanam Luang on Sunday. The Nation reported protesters shouting for the Council for National Security –the body of coup-makers led by Sonthi –to step down. Protestors interviewed said they opposed martial law, the loss of civil liberties and constitutional rights. Now, another anti-coup activist group called the “Saturday People's Group” wants the National Counter Corruption Commission (NCCC) to “investigate the assets of Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont and his wife”, the Bangkok Post said.
On the same note of anti-graft, participants at the recent Thailand Development Research Institute (TDRI) 2006 conference have called for “laws to direct economic development and lessen corruption… to assure productive investment”. Other suggestions included: “an early-warning system for fiscal policy… to guard against politicians who might run populist policies at the expense of fiscal discipline”; “a clear plan about trade liberalization” and severe penalties for “corrupt politicians and bureaucrats”, whilst making the procedure easier for citizens to prosecute such people.
These instances show the general public belief that the government needs to do more. Given the tight rein over political freedom, it is uncertain how credible the recent Assumption University's Abac poll is. Surveying 5,192 respondents from December 1-9 in 18 provinces, the poll showed that 81.5% “of people believe lifting martial law in only some provinces is acceptable while about the same number support the work of the Council for National Security (CNS) chairman [Gen. Sonthi]”. Regional disparity was also highlighted regarding support for Gen. Sonthi, “with 92.3% in the South” compared with “67.7% in the Northeast”.
On a separate issue, it has been announced in the Nation that “the draft of the Thai-Japanese Free-Trade Agreement (FTA) will be sent to the Cabinet for approval next Tuesday… [And that] the government was scheduled to hold a public hearing to discuss the Thai-Japan FTA from December 20-22… Following [National Legislative Assembly] NLA approval, the long-awaited FTA could be signed”. This FTA was to be signed on 13 April 2006 but was held back because of the 2 April snap elections. Given the present government’s suspicion of deals handled during the Thaksin administration, “the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce [has] urged the new government to sign the FTA with Japan, saying it would boost gross domestic product growth by 0.1 percentage point to 4.1 per cent this year”.
North-south divide in support for CNS chairman Sonthi but 78% behind him (Nation, 11 December 2006)
TDRI urges laws to help lift economy, nullify graft (Nation, 11 December 2006)
Activists: Probe PM for corruption (Bangkok Post, 11 December 2006)
Rights protection plummets (Bangkok Post, 11 December 2006)
Junta 'curbing liberties' (Nation, 11 December 2006)
Call for new charter to protect rights (Nation, 11 December 2006)
Easing of martial law backed (Nation, 11 December 2006)
Promotions 'not transparent' (Bangkok Post, 10 December 2006)
Constitution without public input will fail (Bangkok Post, 10 December 2006)
Baht 'must be moving target' (Nation, 10 December 2006)
Japan pact to go to Cabinet for approval (Nation, 10 December 2006)
Insurgents kill informant on third try (Bangkok Post, 10 December 2006)
SBPAC runs into problems (Bangkok Post, 10 December 2006)
NLA committee to propose Govt. to review cases against southern people (Nation, 10 December 2006)
Anand urges Govt to be patient in tacking southern problem (Nation, 10 December 2006)
Govt urged to talk to old-timers of separatist groups (Nation, 10 December 2006)