November 11, 2016:
The king died four weeks ago and the crown prince is set to take the throne on December 1
. This is a big deal in Thailand. The royalists and the military were always concerned with fate of the monarchy because the crown prince was a widely despised playboy who, it was feared, would discredit the monarchy and the power of the monarchists if he became king. The generals apparently came to an understanding with the crown prince, who has been behaving since the army took over again in 2011. Meanwhile the monarchists quietly sought to eliminate the more visible (and embarrassing) corrupt monarchists. Some of these jailed monarchists have mysteriously died. Murder is suspected, to prevent the jailed men from going public with what they know of the bad behavior among the officially anti-corruption monarchists.
Another unpopular aspect of the military dictatorship is the growing number of arrests for lese-majesty (showing disrespect for the monarchy). Some critics of the military government were arrested on vague charges of trying to overthrow the monarchy. All this was absurd because if there was one thing most Thais could agree on was the popularity of their elderly king. The crown prince is another matter. The Thai monarch generally stays out of politics and everyone feels that if things get really bad the king will step in. That rarely happened because the king has more popularity than political power and was used as a symbol by anti-populist traditionalists and as a source of ultimate salvation by pro-democracy groups. After all, it was the king who established democracy in the 1930s (to avoid a civil war) and Thais were expecting more of the same to avoid another one. But that beloved king Bhumibol is dead and his successor has much less moral authority.
One positive aspect to this is that with a new king installed the military is more likely to allow, as promised, new elections in 2017. That will come with a new constitution imposed by the military, in an effort to make it more difficult for an elected government to control the military. That is not expected to end well.
All Quieter On The Southern Front
In the Moslem south the violence continues although it is at its lowest level (about 25 incidents a month) since the unrest began in 2004. The violence declined eight percent last year. The violence peaked in 2007 with 139 incidents a month. Since 2004 there have been 6,500 deaths and 11,700 wounded from 15,124 violent incidents.
November 2, 2016: In the south (Songkhla, Narathiwat and Pattani provinces) at least twenty shooting and bombing attacks left three dead, five wounded and much property damage. No one took responsibility but word was this was a joint effort by separatist groups to protest the recent death of Islamic terrorist leader Mahama Maeroh and the recent arrests of many more Islamic terrorist and separatist leaders.
November 1, 2016: The army opened a new Cyber Center facility, whose official function is to protect Thailand from Internet based attacks. The reality is that this new Cyber Center is mainly for censorship of those who oppose army rule or the military in general. Soon after the 2011 coup pro-democracy Thais became adept in opposing the military via social media. The military tried to control that media but as China discovered, even when you employ an enormous Internet censorship bureaucracy and some very effective technology, the unwelcome messages still get through. Moreover sites like Facebook are tremendously popular in Thailand, by royalists and populists alike. Thus the army was forced to come out and say it would never shut down Facebook access in Thailand. So the military is seeking to identify and punish Internet based critics on a regular basis. This terrorizes anti-military Thais and that means fewer of them will openly express their opposition to the military.
October 30, 2016: In the south (Narathiwat province) security forces tracked down and killed Mahama Maeroh, a leader of RKK, one of the more active (since 2002) Islamic terrorist groups in the region. Three other RKK members were arrested. RKK, like other Islamic terror groups in the south, have suffered heavy losses in the last few years and is believed down to fewer than ten active members at present. There have been a lot of desertions and few new recruits lately.
October 28, 2016: In the south (Pattani province) a teacher was shot dead and another woman wounded. Islamic terrorists took credit.
October 25, 2016: The government has begun the process of sending the 103,000 Burmese refugees home. These are mostly tribal people fleeing fighting with the army. The refugees are in nine camps and some have been there since the 1980s.
October 24, 2016: In the south (Pattani province) a bomb went off in a noodle shop leaving one dead and 18 wounded.
October 15, 2016: In the south (Pattani province) police arrested about 48 young men (mostly students) as suspects in a rumored bombing plot. Most were quickly released and all eventually found innocent of any terrorist activity.
October 13, 2016: King Bhumibol died at 88 after a record 70 year reign.