The Thai middle class’s tolerance for dictatorship

Pithaya Pookaman is a retired Thai ambassador to Bangladesh, Bhutan, Chile and Ecuador. He currently lives in Bangkok. He wrote an opinion piece for Asia Sentinel. A few important passages are below.

He starts by noting that “the Thai people (have) a spirit of tolerance towards the military’s arbitrary rule and its disdain for the rule of law.”

His disdain is aimed especially at urban middle-class Thais, “who seem to have wholeheartedly embraced the 2014 military coup.” noting that “the middle class’s tolerance for dictatorship has paradoxically made them intolerant towards freedom of expression and democratic process. It has made them insensitive and even impervious to injustice and blatant violation of fundamental rights of the Thai people who often defy the regime to air their grievances. Their moral core is so malleable that it can be forged into a tool for demagoguery and tyranny that is an antithesis of morality as it exhibits indifference towards injustice, contempt towards the marginalized countrymen, disdain towards democratic process, suspicions of liberty and freedom of expression, and unabashed rejoicing in the suppression of dissidents who are merely exercising their inalienable rights.”

WHy does the urban middle class embrace authoritarianism? In part he says due to their own vested interests but mainly because “the bulk of the middle class is either apathetic or has little intellectual capacity to understand the nuances of Thai politics and, worse still, to comprehension democracy, globalization, and universal norms.”

The writer argues that “the urban Thai middle class blames the past democratic government and lauds the dictatorial regime for bringing back calm and stability to the country after a long period of political chaos which crippled the country’s capitol. It adheres to the narrative of “the coup to stop corruption” although, paradoxically, corruption under the unaccountable dictatorial regime has never been so rampant. Moreover, it ignores the fact that democracy has always been sabotaged by the military and has never been allowed to succeed.”

The full article is here. The author is right. And he is part of a growing demand from the media and civic society for a move from inept military rule.


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