One thing a military organisation worth its salt is good at is acting swiftly and decisively under duress to resolve a serious crisis. This is exactly what the Thai Army has done to untangle a government paralysed by civilian politics. Following the imposition of martial law by the Army last week, further measures have been put in place over the weekend to pave the way for a reboot of the Thai government…
By late on Saturday the junta had also announced it had dissolved the senate and would be assuming control of all lawmaking powers. Several hours earlier, it had summoned 35 prominent academics and activists to report to army headquarters in addition to some 155 leading politicians and leaders it had already called in for questioning.
The council has also sacked the police chief and head of the Department of Special Investigations – Thailand’s FBI. On Sunday afternoon it called in the editors of 18 major Thai newspapers – among them Khaosod, the Bangkok Post, ASTV, Matichon and Thairath – according to the online news portal Prachatai. It was not clear if the editors would be allowed to leave or detained in unknown locations like those arrested earlier.
All these moves have, as of the above news report, been endorsed by the Thai monarch King Bhumibol Adulyadej. The endorsement gives legitimacy to the new Thai military government under General Prayuth Chan-ocha, who had earlier been appointed Acting Prime Minister by the military junta. Strong measures are in effect to maintain law and order, including a suspension of basic civil rights presumably under the premise that the country’s Constitution is now under review and effectively suspended as well…
More than 100 people remain in military detention in secret locations in what has been seen as a push to suppress dissent and potential opposition to the military takeover. Those who refuse to answer the army’s summons are under threat of being court martialled, facing a two-year prison sentence and a fine.
A 10pm-5am curfew still stands across the nation and about 14 Thai TV channels and radio stations are still off-air. Some websites have been shut down and some international channels, like BBC and CNN, are still inaccessible on certain providers.
The Philippine government late last week had issued its two-cent opinion on the matter. “Noting” the developments in Thailand, Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) spokesman Charles Jose expressed his government’s “support” for a ‘peaceful resolution’ of the crisis.
“The Philippines likewise hopes for an early return to normalcy consistent with democratic principles, the rule of law and the will and interest of the Thai people,” the statement added.
But what does “normalcy” mean in the Philippine context? Just a quick look at the Philippines’ top headline stories easily tells one what a “normal” Philippines is. Normal civilian rule in the Philippines means pointless drawn-out inquiries into a massive corruption scandal involving hundreds of incumbent and former legislators. Normalcy is a Filipino public gripped by fear of crime which most disturbingly includes a proliferation of homicidal motorcycle-riding assassins who could be hired for less than $100 to effect summary executions. Normal Filipino politicians are traditional oligarchs who made billions monopolising the Philippine economy and keeping Philippine industry atrophied and unable to compete at a global level. Most pressing of all, normalcy in the Philippines has seen the decline of its military capability — borne out of a politically-sponsored paranoia over all things to do with the military that has festered for decades.
In everybody else’s concept of what it means to be “normal”, the Philippines’ Congress — its Senate and its House of Representatives — should by now have been dissolved. It is ineffectual, tainted by a profound scandal, and has generally been seen to be a den crooks for decades. That it continues to chug along is a testament to Philippine society’s once celebrated — now derided — “resilience”.
In contrast, the Thai Army has fixed in days what the Philippines’ civilian reformists and so-called “activists” have failed to do for many years. Indeed, the solutions to much of the Philippines’ problems are so obvious that the country’s “intelligentsia” have become too embarrassed to raise them in polite company — further contributing to the decline of the national collective intellect and paving the way for the triumph of all the wrong arguments.
The eminent American physicist Albert Einstein once said:
Problems cannot be solved using the same thinking that created them.
Alright then. So…
What exactly are Filipinos doing to solve the multitude of problems that beg obvious solutions?
Until we are able to answer that question, the Philippine government should do Filipinos a favour and keep out of Thailand’s internal affairs to spare us any further embarrassment.
[Photo courtesy The Independent.]
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