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Around 90 per cent of people surveyed in an online poll conducted by Thai Enquirer said that they were less happy now than before the 2014 military coup.
The poll, conducted on social media by this publication, asked whether General Prayut Chan-ocha and the military leaders that overthrew the government in 2014 managed to return “happiness to the people” as they promised to do seven years prior.
The poll was conducted this past Saturday on the seventh anniversary of the putsch.
Seven years ago, General Prayut Chan-ocha took power in a military coup. He said he took power to bring happiness back to the people.— Thai Enquirer (@ThaiEnquirer) May 22, 2021
Seven years later, are you happier under his rule?#whatshappeninginThailand
Out of a sample size of over 800 people, 90 per cent responded that their lives were not better under the government of Prayut who has ruled first as a dictator and now as prime minister under a semi-democratic system.
Prayut and General Prawit Wongsuwan took power in 2014 after months of street protest against the Pheu Thai government. Their excuse for overthrowing a democratically elected government was that the country’s economy was unstable and that the protests were descending into violence.
Over that time there have been more failures than success but credit must go where it is due.
The one success that the government has had and can point to has been its promise to seriously move against human traffickers within the country.
New infrastructure put in place by the Prayut government has seen Thailand improve its ranking in that department. However, rights groups warn that unless the government maintains its vigilance there will be a backslide on these gains.
On the economic front, seven years on, and GDP growth is at its lowest point in decades due to the coronavirus pandemic. The country’s economy contracted by its largest margin in over a century in 2020.
Even before Covid-19, there were grumbling over the junta’s management of the economy and sluggish growth. Promises by the junta to integrate Thailand into the ASEAN Economy, the failed Eastern Economic Corridor program, and accusations of nepotism and cronyism were lobbed at the government.
The current Covid response plan has been also been met with criticism. The government’s indecision is costing lives and its sluggishness in procuring vaccines is unacceptable to many critics in Thailand.
In the past seven years, Prayut’s government has systematically crackdown on dissent and political opinion using harsh laws including sedition and royal insult laws to silence the opposition leaders.
The court system has also reinforced Prayut’s rule dissolving two opposition parties on technicalities and keeping unscrupulous ministers in power despite ethical breaches.
As a result, massive protests against Prayut have become a norm in Thai political life. Conservative age-old institutions and a constitution that allows the military to handpick senators must change, according to political dissidents.
While Prayut has so far weathered the political and economic storms that have accompanied his rule, the poll conducted by Thai Enquirer shows that sentiment is shifting fast. Unless the government can bring Covid-19 under control and fix the economy, it may find itself with very little support heading into the next election.