The content in this page ("Plus ça change" by Harrison George) is not produced by Prachatai staff. Prachatai merely provides a platform, and the opinions stated here do not necessarily reflect those of Prachatai.

Plus ça change

Oh what a relief. 

No longer do we have to fear the knock on the door from martial law officers at some ungodly hour of the night. 

Nor should we worry any more about the hooded journey under martial law to an anonymous military facility where we will be held without charge or trial. 

And we are now free from the terrible prospect of seven days’ detention under martial law while we have our attitudes forcibly adjusted without the possibility of consulting our family or friends or lawyers or even seeking support and solace from them.

And there is no longer any need to be concerned about having to sign a martial law document to regain our physical freedom only by giving up our rights to political expression, to the freedom to leave the country, or to the ability to conduct financial transactions.

The media have been freed.  People can meet in groups of 5.  Eating sandwiches in public will just be a picnic.  And it won’t matter how many fingers we thrust into the air.

Thanks to the gracious benevolence of our leader, our duce, our Fuehrer, martial law has been revoked.  (Except for the south, of course, but they’ve have martial law so long they must be used to it by now.) 

Now we can sleep soundly, safe in the knowledge that happiness has been returned to the Thai people. 

And all we have to fear now is the midnight summons, arbitrary arrest and detention, and the deprivation of rights and liberties under NCPO Order No. 3/2015, which take away from us more or less the same rights that we lost under martial law.

And the media can still be muzzled, political gatherings of 5 or more are still illegal and be careful where and how you eat those political sandwiches.

Er, why did they bother?

Well it looks so much better if our soldiers-cum-politicians can go round telling everyone that they’ve revoked martial law.  They well know that farangs are too stupid to see through this sleight of hand, you see, so the tourists will come back and Thailand will no longer have to pretend that cosying up to the likes of North Korea qualifies as foreign policy.

So much so that there are plans to repeat this wheeze in other areas.

It has not escaped the attention even of this government that President Joko Widodo of Indonesia is running into international flak over his decision to restart executing murderers and drug traffickers and terrorists, Indonesians and foreigners alike (while staunchly protecting Indonesians in foreign countries from the death penalty). 

So the government will shortly announce that Thailand is abolishing the death penalty.  The Foreign Minister will go to Geneva and crow to the UN Human Rights Council about joining the civilized nations of the world.  Thailand will rightly earn lashings and lashings of human rights kudos.

But at the same time, using Section 44 of the Interim Constitution, the head of the National Council for Peace and Order will issue an order, using his superordinate powers over the judiciary, legislature and executive, to reinstate capital punishment for murder, terrorism, rape, arson, drug trafficking, treason, spying, corruption and reporting stories that make the government look bad.  In line with the Constitution, he will promptly inform the National Legislative Assembly of this, and also the Prime Minister, in this latter case by using a mirror.

And to show to what really good sports they are and how they can take a joke in the name of freedom of expression, the military will set up an annual national prize for sarcasm for which there will be no entrance fee.  Contestants won’t even have to register for the competition, since the military will graciously do it for them.

Winners of the prize will be granted lifetime employment as lecturers in satire at the newly formed Bang Khwang Central University where food and accommodation will be provided 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, year after year after year, until long after they’ve been forgotten.

About author:  Bangkokians with long memories may remember his irreverent column in The Nation in the 1980's. During his period of enforced silence since then, he was variously reported as participating in a 999-day meditation retreat in a hill-top monastery in Mae Hong Son (he gave up after 998 days), as the Special Rapporteur for Satire of the UN High Commission for Human Rights, and as understudy for the male lead in the long-running ‘Pussies -not the Musical' at the Neasden International Palladium (formerly Park Lane Empire).



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