Opinion: Srettha shows true colors as military-backed stooge

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In a political landscape desperate for transformative figures, Srettha Thavisin’s ascension to the Prime Minister’s office seemed like a momentous occasion. Having moved from a high-profile career as a real estate developer to the complex arena of Thai politics, he represented a break from the traditional pathways that often funnel career politicians into positions of power.

His affiliations with the Pheu Thai Party, historically seen as opposition to military-backed establishments, coupled with his previous rhetoric about soldiers best serving the nation by “protecting democracy,” offered a glimpse of a potentially different future for Thailand—a future more aligned with democratic principles and less burdened by the weight of military oversight. However, recent statements from the Prime Minister have dashed such hopes, painting him as yet another leader willing to compromise core principles for the sake of political expediency.

A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away…

Srettha’s stance on the Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC) is perhaps the most poignant manifestation of this disappointing volte-face. Founded with the ostensible purpose of maintaining national security, ISOC has long been a contentious institution, facing accusations of acting as an arm of the military to suppress democratic voices. The criticisms are not unfounded; the organization has a track record of stalking, arresting, and harassing pro-democracy activists. The Move Forward Party’s efforts to draft a bill to eliminate ISOC seems, in this context, a step in the right direction—especially considering the estimated annual budget of 6-8 billion baht that the organization guzzles from public funds, often duplicating roles that other state agencies already fulfill.

Yet, Srettha has decided not to support this initiative, claiming that ISOC serves to “prevent and lower misunderstandings” people have toward the military. The statement is not just disheartening but bewildering, given his earlier pro-democracy rhetoric. The decision appears to be less about the effective use of state resources or the protection of democratic values and more about appeasing the military establishment. This is further complicated by his party’s alliance with former coup-led parties like Palang Pracharath and United Thai Nation.

It raises the question: has Srettha Thavisin become a mere puppet, another stooge for the military?

While he has announced that the military will relinquish some 9,276 rai of land for public use and water management projects, this gesture comes across as an attempt to divert attention from the primary issue—the problematic existence of ISOC and its role in eroding democratic principles. It’s a smoke and mirrors tactic that hardly addresses the underpinnings of the crisis. If anything, it indicates a disturbing willingness on the prime minister’s part to allow military influence to persist in Thai politics, undermining the very democratic ideals he once claimed to champion.

The Prime Minister’s decision not to back the bill against ISOC is more than just a single policy stance; it is a revelation of character. It unearths a willingness to sidestep the moral imperatives of governance for the sake of what—political longevity? An easier life at the helm? These are questions that Srettha must answer not just to his core voters, which reportedly had reservations about his candidacy, but to the Thai people at large, who are yearning for a leader willing to break the cycle of military influence in their country’s politics.

If Srettha Thavisin is willing to turn his back on the principles he initially seemed to uphold, one must wonder what other compromises he is willing to make down the line. This is the crux of the issue. Leadership, particularly in a country with a political history as complex and fraught as Thailand’s, requires a steadfast commitment to core principles. The prime minister’s recent actions reveal a leader all too willing to bend in the face of opposition, and in doing so, he tarnishes the promise of change that his election initially signified.

We are left to grapple with a difficult truth: In a political landscape yearning for a leader to champion the ideals of democracy and freedom, Srettha Thavisin has proven that he is not that leader. His actions suggest he may never be. The real tragedy here is not just the betrayal of his own stated ideals but the perpetuation of a cycle that keeps true democratic progress tantalizingly out of reach for the people of Thailand.


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