The government can’t get away with abuses of power if the people don’t let it. But if the people are ready to throw a high-five and a chest-bump whenever the government stomps on liberty, then we have what we have in our beloved Thailand.
The Prayut Chan-o-cha Regime can count on half the country (generally speaking) to support it in whatever it does. As such, the Prayut Regime can get away with whatever it does.
From the military coup in 2014 to the military constitution in 2017 to the funny-calculator election in 2019 to the imprisonment of pro-democracy activists in 2021 and this week, when the Prayut Regime decided it’s time to throw academic David Streckfuss out of the kingdom.
Former yellow-shirt People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) leader Sondhi Limtongkul is not a supporter of the Prayut Regime but a supporter of the traditional establishment. Therefore, often, their interests align.
Sondhi is one of the most influential voices among Thailand’s traditionalists. A media veteran and a smooth and powerful talker, he knows exactly how to tell a story, and his show Sondhi Talk is the bible to Thailand’s traditionalists.
Professor David Streckfuss has been in Thailand for some three decades. He has a Ph.D. in Southeast Asian History from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and is the country director of The Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE).
He’s a professor at Khon Kaen University, wrote a book on the lese majeste law, is an author at The Isaan Recorder, and an active human rights activist.
Recently, immigration police went to meet with the university rector. After the meeting was done, it was decided, the university will no longer give a work permit to Professor Streckfuss. (Because, you know, standing up for academic freedom isn’t really a thing around here.)
Professor Streckfuss became the latest casualty in the Prayut Regime’s slash-and-burn policy against dissenting voices.
As usual, the progressive voices in Thailand cry foul, while the traditionalist voices yell “chai-yo!” and why wouldn’t they?
Sondhi explained why Professor Streckfuss must get booted from the Kingdom. Here are some quotes from Sondhi:
“He’s a former CIA agent embedded in Khon Kaen University for 27 years.”
“I’m not surprised why so many Khon Kaen University professors are of the mindset to overthrow the monarchy institution.”
“David Streckfuss is a secret American CIA agent behind the Isan Region’s movement to overthrow the monarchy.”
“David Streckfuss is behind Pai Daodin.”
[Pai is a leading pro-democracy activist currently jailed on lese majeste charges.]
“David Streckfuss requested a grant from the NED. Do you remember the NED? It’s a branch of the State Department. It’s the civilian version of the CIA. It’s called the National Endowment for Democracy.”
Thus, the conclusion is obvious.
Put “CIA” and “overthrow the monarchy” together, keep repeating the name “David Streckfuss,” and voila, to Thailand’s traditionalists, this must be true.
Therefore, David Streckfuss must be booted out of the kingdom.
Now, combine all the pro-government media and influencers together, have them all repeat the same thing, over and over.
The result is, the Prayut Regime gets away with whatever it does because half of the country (generally speaking) supports whatever it does.