The extension of the emergency decree for another month is to fight COVID-19 in general and to save General Prayut Chan-o-cha’s job in particular.
Ahead of the virus outbreak, the government faced flash mobs organized by the Former Future Forward Party and democracy activists. Following the Constitution Court’s banning of Future Forward and its executives, university campuses across Bangkok and some in the provinces erupted in protests. Many high school campuses also protested.
Tensions were high.
Will the students ban together with democracy activists? Will the protests spill out into the streets? Will there be another military coup?
Then COVID-19 happened.
Which might have saved General Prayut’s job, at least for the time being.
Fear is an effective management tool.
Fear turns intelligent people stupid, flips common sense into idiocy and makes cowards of anyone who succumbs to it.
The enactment of the emergency decree, instead of the Communicable Disease Act, was to instill the fear of COVID-19 beyond the realm of rationality. The extension of the emergency decree is to also extend this fear.
COVID-19 is the new Thaksin Shinawatra:
“Watch out. Don’t let your guard down. It might come back.”
This is the fear that persuades the people to sacrifice liberty and common sense, just to feel safe. The fear that has persuaded many of us to do whatever General Prayut says.
To fight COVID-19, there was never a need for the emergency decree, nor the extension of it. From curfew to close down, the Communicable Disease Act covers everything needed. The emergency decree is a method of social control: Left hook COVID-19. Right cross limitless government power.
The combination leaves many people drooling senseless.
The government is also ruled by fear.
The fear of losing power.
Over the past month, disappointment and disgust have been at an all-time high. If the emergency decree ends today as originally intended, the streets may soon erupt in protests which could lead to three results:
- Security forces disperse protestors quickly and efficiently, causing protestors to lose hearts and limp home. All things go back to normal, General Prayut saves his job.
- Violence escalates with no end in sight. The military launches a coup, another general becomes dictator. General Prayut loses his job, because he couldn’t maintain control. Hence, the power-that-be would replace him.
- The government submits to popular demands for a snap election. The Pheu Thai and Move Forward alliance defeat the government coalition axis, even in spite of 250 handpicked senators and a funny calculator. (I will then switch to writing criticisms against Pheu Thai and Move Forward. After all, it’s the democratic duty of the media to check the power of the government, every government).
But the emergency decree can’t last forever.
Furthermore, COVID-19 will be contained.
The extension of the emergency decree gives General Prayut one more month to do whatever it takes to persuade the people from taking to the streets. Which is not impossible to do, the people might become emotionally drained by then and will be too concerned with making a living and coping with daily life..
Furthermore, General Prayut can still count on the support of a bulk of the conservative middle and upper class, plus the tycoons and elites who wield a lot of social influences.
Some of whom believe earnestly that he’s the “good man of Siam” and without him “Lord Sauron will rise and rule Middle Earth”. Some of whom are more practical, as they know that he’s Father Christmas when it comes to granting monopolies, concessions, subsidies, tax breaks, etc. Some of whom are political conservatives who simply prefer traditional social hierarchy.
These are the people who will help General Prayut fight for his job, however they can.