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    Posted May 26, 2014 by
    SPSomtow
    Location
    Bangkok, Thailand
    Assignment
    Assignment
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    Thai military declares coup

    More from SPSomtow

    A kinder, gentler Coup

     

    The fourth day of military government in Bangkok was a very busy one, because General Prayuth finally received an endorsement from the royal palace as the de facto ruler of the country. His government has therefore achieved the imprimatur of legitimacy it had not hitherto obtained.

    As of this morning, CNN and the BBC were still down, although the military logos that had been displayed on Bangkok’s TV screens were now replaced by a pink-bordered, non-military apology notice. It appeared that someone was trying to soft-pedal the army’s attempts to control the media. In the internet age, those attempts have in any case proved ineffective.

    A more palpable positive sign was that the Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives announced that, under the junta’s direction, they would start paying out 55 billion baht from its reserves to the suffering farmers whose lives have been turned upside down by the previous administration’s doomed rice-pledging scheme. The full 90 billion baht still owed would be paid by next month. Payments have already begun and this gesture has gone a long way towards improving the junta’s standing in the eyes of the all-important agricultural sector.

    Apart from the pink borders on TV, there were other hints of a kinder, gentler coup; the junta announced that those it detained were being released unharmed and tried to spin the detainments as invitations and the detainees as “guests”. However, some wondered why, if they were guests, they were being threatened with a one-year jail term for refusing these invitations. As most, including ex prime minister Yingluck, were being released, others were being newly brought in, including a high-profile columnist of “The Nation” newspaper, Mr. Pravit Rojanaphruk.

    The junta also announced that security offences would now be dealt with via court-martial, a suspension of due process that also did not sit well with the media. It was noted, however, that leaders of neither of the parties in the year-long duelling protests was being allowed a get-out-of-jail-free card. PDRC Leader Suthep was led away from his stint as a “guest” of the junta to be indicted on murder charges for his role in the 2010 protest deaths.

    Cambodia’s Council of Ministers stated that setting up a Thai government in exile in that country would not “be feasible”. This ran counter to a report that Thaksin Shinawatra’s legal counsel, Mr Robert Amsterdam, had been trying to set up such a government there.

    In Phayao, a red-shirt stronghold in the North of Thailand, concrete markers reading “red shirt district” were slated to be dismantled.

    The junta’s score on its fourth day out is decidedly mixed. There was a substantial PR gain with the payments to the farmers, but civil liberties continued to be curtailed, and the curfew has been a disaster both for business, for tourists, and for the day-to-day lives of urban citizens used to a nocturnal lifestyle.

    However, for the first time, General Prayuth spoke in general terms at a press conference about his motivation, his vision, and his goals. He maintained that the coup had been initiated with the greatest reluctance as the only way to restore peace and prevent further bloodshed, and promised that he was not a fighter, but a fixer. He insisted that a national election would be held as soon as possible, but declined to venture a time frame.

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