The Thai military junta is enlisting help from Thai expats around the world, asking them to justify the May 2014 military coup d’etat to foreigners, according to the Bangkok-based newspaper Khaosod.
“I want all of you who live abroad to explain the situation in our country to foreigners, so that they can understand what happened,” said Gen. Chatchalerm Chalermsuk to representatives of a Boston-based Thai organization. “That the military does not want to hold on to power, and how we have been trying to restore peace in the country and move the nation forward, and enforce the laws.”
The general recounted how he explains to foreign government officials that the military justifies its coup based on the country’s political deadlock.
“I have traveled to the United States and Australia to explain that this government will move along our road map, which will lead to an election,” Gen. Chatchalerm said. “In the past, we had no exit, because the [former]government would not resign … And there were groups that came out to oppose the government. The military was afraid that it would lead to clashes. We could not let the situation to escalate beyond our control.”
The May coup followed months of protests between anti-monarchy and pro-monarchy camps that left more than two-dozen killed and hundreds injured. The military took power of legislative, executive, and judicial powers, censored national broadcasting, repealed the constitution, and declared martial law, while maintaining the status of the monarchy and laws against criticizing it. In the past year, nearly 50 people have been charged for criticizing Thailand’s monarchy.
For some people, Thailand’s junta makes no difference. “I’ve come to recognize that the type of government often makes little difference in our day-to-day lives,” reported perpetual traveler Paul Terhorst for Live and Invest Overseas News, after the May 2014 coup.
Thailand has experienced 12 coups since 1932. Despite the junta’s increased crackdown on protests, including peaceful demonstrations, and what many observers are calling a strengthening grip on power, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha is adamant that he wishes this to be the last coup Thailand experiences.
In an interview with Singapore media in June, Prayuth claimed, “I want this to be the last coup. However, the power of the army would not be reduced. This is because the army has always taken care of this country.”
The junta originally maintained that it planned to hold elections in October 2015, though these have been repeatedly delayed and are not expected until August 2016 at the earliest.