Thailand’s coup regime is handing out freebies to prove its sincerity in bringing happiness back to the country.
First, it arranged live broadcasts of all 64 World Cup matches on Thailand’s free TV. Then it lifted the night curfew in more than 20 provinces, allowing football fans and tourists to watch the games after midnight.
Earlier, the army set up numerous reconciliation centers across the country in a bid to end the conflict between warring political forces. Believing that reconciliation will only work if people are relaxed, Army General Prayuth Chan-ocha ordered recreational and entertainment activities to be held at the centers.Enjoying this article? Click here to subscribe for full access. Just $5 a month.
“Happiness” festivals were meanwhile organized at popular protest venues like the Victory Monument in Bangkok, where soldiers offered free haircuts, food, massages, and medical checkups. Army officers also entertained the crowd by putting on concerts. To promote patriotism, the junta also announced the free screening of The Legend of King Naresuan, a film about a revered leader who defended and expanded the reach of the Thai kingdom.
A proposed train fare hike in the nation’s capital was also delayed to ease the financial burden of the people.
Prior to the free airing of the World Cup games, the junta ordered TV stations to play a song written by Prayuth and called “Return Happiness to the People.” The lyrics of the song, allegedly penned in just one hour, echoed the army’s commitment to restoring order and happiness in the country. An unofficial translation of some of the verses:
“Let us be the ones who step in, before it is too late
To bring back love, how long will it take?
Please, will you wait? We will move beyond disputes
We will do what we promised. We are asking for a little more time.
“All we ask of you is to trust and have faith in us
The land will be good soon
Let us return happiness to you, the people.”
In a speech highlighting the current political situation, General Prayuth defended the coup as an antidote to “parliamentary dictatorship,” which he claims has “caused conflict and unhappiness among Thai people.”
“We need to solve many issues; from administration to budget system, corruption, and even the starting point of democracy itself – the election. What we are doing today is to try and bring everything back to normal. We intend to return happiness to everyone living in Thailand, both Thais and foreigners,” he added.
Since day one of the coup, the army has banned protests and public gatherings of five or more people. Despite this prohibition, however, many Thais continued to organize creative forms of protest actions like the “Hunger Games” three-finger salute to represent the people’s aspirations for genuine liberty, equality, and fraternity. The salute has since been outlawed.
Instead of copying from foreign films, Prayuth urged Thais to raise five fingers instead. “How about if we all raise five fingers instead – two for the country, and the other three to signify religion, monarchy and the people. Raising three fingers is copying foreign films, but we should be proud of own identity.”
Meanwhile, the junta continued to summon hundreds of Thais suspected of being critical of the army. But army officials insisted that those being ordered to report to the army are not being detained, since they are provided with amenities like “air conditioning” and “good food.” In other words, the dissenters may have been stripped of their civil liberties, but they are able to enjoy the amenities offered by the army.
This depiction of Thailand’s “happy detainees” says a lot about the country’s coup in general A military dictatorship has taken over the country and the generals want the people to be happy about it.