In Thailand, the military junta is continuing its crackdown on dissent a month after it took control of the nation. Bit by bit, the army has silenced critics and ended free speech.
CHRIS UHLMANN: In Thailand, the military junta is continuing its crackdown on dissent a month after it took control of the nation. Bit by bit, the army has silenced critics and ended free speech. There are very few people now willing to speak out against military rule with any activism now having to take place in exile.
South-East Asia correspondent Samantha Hawley reports from Bangkok.
SAMANTHA HAWLEY: Thailand’s military rule has been consolidating its power in a nation where free speech and individual thinking are no longer welcome, where democracy has taken a back seat and those who support it face intimidation and the threat of detention if they speak out. And in an environment of fear there’s not much of that happening anymore.
(Sound of activist speaking)
This normally outspoken Red Shirt activist would only speak to AM anonymously – the threat of being detained or jailed under military law is too risky.
Criticism of the coup here comes with very deep consequences.
“There are many things the army are doing that will not lead to reconciliation,” he says, “especially the hunting down of people who are anti the coup and support democracy.”
“We are only staying still,” he says of the Red Shirts, “because the other side has got guns.”
In Bangkok, not even the most peaceful of protest is tolerated anymore. Even a woman wearing a t-shirt with the words “respect my vote” on the front was taken away for questioning.
On national television, the Army General Prahyut Chan-ocha spends every Friday evening preaching the new rule and justifying a crackdown on dissent that opponents argue is breaching the human rights of Thai people.
In one case a 27 year old activist was apprehended by soldiers at the end of May and released this week. She claimed she’d chosen to stay on in military custody.
Activist and former politician Jakrapob Penkair is living in exile.
JAKRAPOB PENKAIR: People are quiet now because they have been abused and bullied and threatened. That’s why they have to be quiet.
SAMANTHA HAWLEY: Along with the only Thai minister who managed to escape into exile, Charupong Ruangsuwan, he’s established a small anti-coup group called the Organisation of Free Thais for Human Rights and Democracy, but it’s still searching for a home base overseas.
JAKRAPOB PENKAIR: The victory of this movement must be done inside Thailand and not outside, but we are taking the approach of outside in.
SAMANTHA HAWLEY: The military general is now even offering lumps sum payments to those who help with his crackdown.
A photo of an anti-coup protester in action will earn you 500 baht, about $16 – earnings that pit Thais against Thais.
This is Samantha Hawley in Bangkok reporting for AM.