Thailand’s Junta Tightens the Screws on Shinawatra Country
Security forces visiting village leaders at home
The poverty-stricken northeast feels the heat
A year and a half after Thailand’s junta seized power, the so-called Isaan region – the northeast that formed the power base of the Shinawatra clan – has seen rights curtailed, land stolen and the military aiding the powerful in stealing resources, according to an explosive new report by Thai Lawyers for Human Rights.
“High-profile figures were frequently detained in military barracks for several days and had to sign a contract agreeing to stop political activity upon release,” according to the report. “During this initial period, students, faculty members and other people who organized anti-coup activities were summoned for attitude adjustment and asked to cease their political activism.”
At least 200 individuals were unofficially summoned and asked to stop their activism, including more than 60 who were members of the UDD, Red Shirts or pro-democracy activists as well as at least 35 students from Mahasarakham and Khon Kaen Universities, at least 20 academics, at least 50 core villager leaders, and at least 10 activists and NGO workers.
They continue to be visited regularly visited by the military or have to report themselves weekly to the military barracks so that the authorities can track their political activities. Some are visited by the military close to important anniversaries such as the first anniversary of the coup. In addition to being subject to surveillance during their everyday lives, dissidents have found themselves vulnerable to online surveillance as well.
“Restrictions in the name of peace and order have also crept into the university, which is supposed to be a realm of freedom of thought, speech and interaction in the service of engendering wisdom,” the report notes, saying the military drive their Humvees onto campuses almost daily.
Military officers lurk in classroom, intimidating lecturers from discussing sensitive issues in order to avoid drawing unnecessary attention from the military. University administrators have complied with demands to assist in the monitoring of students and to prevent them from acting against the government.
All political gatherings of five or more people have been banned. State officials have interpreted the measure broadly and used it extensively to shut down public events, including both those which aimed to publicize information regarding natural resources and those which promoted discussion about questions of rights and democracy. At least 14 public events have been banned including children’s camp organized by youth activists in Ban Na Nong Bong in Loei Province.