The Opinion Pages | Editorial
By THE EDITORIAL BOARD | MAY 29, 2014
Click on the link to get more news and video from original source: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/30/opinion/sliding-toward-autocracy-in-thailand.html?_r=0
After taking power in a coup last week, Thailand’s top army general said the military would establish a “genuine democracy” in the country. But in practice, the military is operating an increasingly authoritarian government intent on silencing all forms of dissent or disobedience.
Since taking over, the army has detained more than 250 people, including politicians, journalists, academics and activists. Some have been released in recent days but only on the condition that they not speak to the public or criticize the military. Foreign news channels like CNN and the BBC have been ordered off the air and local networks have been heavily censored. The generals have also given themselves the power to prosecute civilians in military courts without providing them with lawyers or the right to appeal, according to Human Rights Watch. On Thursday, the army banned all protests against the coup and sent more than 1,000 soldiers to seal a normally bustling intersection in the capital Bangkok.
By taking these heavy-handed actions, the military risks escalating conflict and weakening the struggling Thai economy. That is the last thing the country needs given that it has just been through six months of public protests by anti- and pro-government groups who are divided by region and class. If Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha, the army chief, wants to lead the country out of its political crisis, as he claims, he should provide a plan for a return to civilian rule, including setting a date for an election.
The Thai generals falsely describe the military as a stabilizing force able to restore peace and order. After the army’s last coup in 2006, for example, it drafted a constitution and handed power to a new government that was soon beset by civic unrest. The army was then called in and ended up killing about 90 protesters.
The Obama administration has rightly criticized the coup and has suspended unspent military financial aid to Thailand. Because Thailand is a treaty ally of the United States, American officials have ties to the army, which they should use to persuade the generals to end the coup.