11/27/2014, 00.00
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With planned election delayed, Thailand has "less democracy but more serenity"

The country's ruling military junta announces changes to the election date. Initially set for next year, now the vote will take place in 2016. In the meantime, political and constitutional reforms as well as economic growth will be the priority. Sources in Bangkok tell AsiaNews that most Thais are "resigned, almost mummified." Some, however, are happy for "the arrest of crooks."

Bangkok (AsiaNews) - Thailand's elections could be delayed until 2016, a year later than expected. In the meantime, power will remain in military hands.

Speaking to the BBC, Sommai Phasee, a minister in the military government, said he had discussed the date with Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, who ousted Prime Minister Yongluck Shinawatra in May after months of political deadlock.

When asked about it, Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon also said that elections would be held in 2016, "If the constitution is ready" and other political reforms have been adopted.

Since some "elements" are still against the military junta (the National Council for Peace and order), the government cannot let its guard down. In fact, Justice Minister Paiboon Koomchaya last week clarified that martial law would remain in place "indefinitely" to ensure the country's "security".

For the new rulers, the economy remains a problem. Growth has been stagnant with the GDP expected to rise just 1-1.2 per cent this year. Hopeful, Minister Phasee said that GDP could expand by 4-5 per cent next year.

Meanwhile, anonymous diplomatic sources in Bangkok told AsiaNews that Thais "are resigned, almost mummified" to the military imposing their rule. Most people are "saying nothing, just waiting for this phase to end".

Human rights associations and groups have also begun reporting arbitrary arrests and abuses, something that our sources confirmed. Given the situation, "dissenting voices have chosen silence because Thais do not protest when they think they are going to lose."

On the issue of constitutional reforms, sources told AsiaNews that the military are tightening their control, rolling the country back by "20 years."

Although an atmosphere of resignation prevails among ordinary Thais, some welcome certain developments, like the arrest of corrupt police, monks, soldiers and businessmen.

"In addition to increased subsidies to farmers, the government has imposed a sense of order. Today, we have less democracy but more serenity," the sources said.

Thailand's crisis began in 2005, as major clashes broke out between "red shirted" pro-Shinawatra protesters, drawn especially from the countryside and among the poor, and the "yellow shirted" supporters of the Democrat Party, which represents Thailand's upper and middle classes, as well as the capital's elite, led in parliament by former Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva.

In the spring of 2010, confrontations between protesters and police degenerated, leaving about a hundred people dead. This was followed by a political process and new elections that saw the temporary return to power of the Shinawatra family.

Still things remained deadlocked and last May, the military intervened to stop street protests that had left at least 27 dead, ousting Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, Thaksin's sister, who had won the previous election by a wide margin.

Although nothing is known about the nature of future political reforms, the country remains in the hands of the military with, as prime minister, the head of the Armed Forces who is tasked with reforming the state, a situation that could easily move the country towards further authoritarian rule.

The current prime minister was in fact responsible for the bloody crackdown in 2010. Since then, and this despite the many dead, no member of the armed forces was ever held accountable for it.

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