Gen. Prayuth in ever greater control
The euphemistically-named National Council for Peace and Order, the military junta set up by Gen. Prayuth Chan-o-cha after seizing power in a coup d’état in 2014, was disbanded in 2019. This ubiquitous and all-powerful junta had constantly hounded the more outspoken journalists, summoning them for questioning, detaining them arbitrarily and driving at least ten of them to flee the country. But the long-promised elections held in March 2019 made no difference to the total control wielded by the elite surrounding Gen. Prayuth, who is now prime minister, defence minister and chief of the Royal Thai Police.
Any criticism of the government is liable to lead to harsh reprisals facilitated by draconian legislation and a justice system that follows orders. A cyber-security law adopted in February 2019 gave the executive even more powers and poses an additional threat to online information. In December 2019, for example, a journalist was sentenced to two years in prison because she had tweeted about the appalling conditions of migrant workers. The threat of a lèse-majesté charge carrying a possible 15-year jail sentence continues to be used as a weapon of mass deterrence against dissident journalists and bloggers. The authorities meanwhile behave in a very indulgent manner towards certain regimes: Cambodian, Chinese and Vietnamese operatives have been allowed to come and arrest dissident exile journalists or bloggers from their country in order to “repatriate” and then jail them.
136 in 2019
44.10 in 2019