Thai netizens questions the role of the army in Thai society

Thai activists and internet users have used the hashtag #ทหารมีไว้ทําไม (why do we have soldiers) to question the role of the armed forces in Thai society, with the hashtag receiving over 50,000 mentions in the last 24 hours.

The army has long played an active role in Thai politics. Since the transition from absolute monarchy during Siamese Revolution in 1932 , the armed forces have staged 13 successful coup d’etats and many more attempts.

The latest coup, in 2014, brought to power the military triumvirate of Prayut Chan-ocha, Prawit Wongsuwan and Anupong Paochinda. Even after 2019’s elections, the military ensured their continued reign by writing a constitution that enshrined their power.

Today, Prayut Chan-ocha is still the prime minister, Prawit is the head of the ruling party and Anupong serves as the head of the powerful Ministry of the Interior.

But the hashtag criticisms don’t end at the junta-leaders or even the current government but the culture within the Thai army which enables coups and political interference.

Current Army Chief Apirat Kongsompong has many time stated that he wouldn’t hesitate to use force to ensure the survival of Thailand’s institutions. He has called opposition politicians, ‘communists,’ and has conducted unilateral military agreements with neighboring countries on issues of security and terrorism.

The army has also drawn internet ire to their perceived tone-deaf pursuit of equipment, buying luxury planes, tanks and guns at a time when the economy is contracting due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Netizens also pointed out that it is the army and the soldiers that have been used by the state to crackdown on protesters, causing many massacres in Thai history and disappearing dissidents.

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