Thailand's new leaders, who seized control of the country via a coup on May 22, seem to be ramping up efforts to show the public that this whole military takeover thing is totally awesome.
Earlier today, the leaders fully lifted the curfew barring residents and visitors from being out between the hours of midnight to 4 a.m., after business operators complained that the ban was hurting tourism. The country's self-installed military leaders issued a televised statement on the subject, saying:
The overall situation in other areas of the country has been resolved and there is no tendency toward possible violence. Therefore, in order to relieve and mitigate the impact on people's daily lives, and to boost tourism by Thais and foreigners, the curfew order is being canceled in the rest of the country.
That tone aligns with other efforts by the leaders to make the coup seem like a normal, friendly occurrence. Last week, the country's new leader, army chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha, penned a song called "Return Happiness to Thailand," which was recorded by the Royal Thai Army band (and has gotten an impressive number of views on YouTube).
It's very pleasant.
The song is all about the positive things that happen after a military coup, and boasts lines such as:
Today the nation is facing menacing danger
The flames are rising
Let us be the ones who step in, before it is too late
To bring back love, how long will it take?
We will do what we promised. We are asking for a little more time.
And the beautiful land will return
We will do with sincerity
All we ask of you is to trust and have faith in us
The land will be good soon
According to CNN, the song was not the only effort made by the new Thai government's "happiness" campaign:
The National Council for Peace and Order, as the regime calls itself, has held public festivals featuring mini-skirted dancers, free haircuts, petting zoos and stands where the attendees can take "selfies" with soldiers. On Sunday, the regime is promising free tickets to screenings of a patriotic movie across the country.
But the military leaders know that sometimes songs aren't enough to convince the populace that you can't say "cool" without also saying "coup," so they've asked the media to avoid using certain words when describing Thailand's political atmosphere. Words like, you know, "coup." Bloomberg reported yesterday:
“Please avoid using the word coup because the context of what happened in Thailand is completely different,” Colonel Werachon Sukondhapatipak, the junta spokesman, said last night at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand. “The only thing that happened in Thailand is the change of the administration of this country.”
And also "detention":
“I don’t like the word detention,” Werachon said last night. People are asked if they need anything “apart from the air condition, apart from the good food, apart from the activities that we provide, apart from all kinds of facilities that make you feel time passing by so quick and apart from the entertainment that we provide? This is detention?”
The leaders have used a stick as well as a carrot to make sure they come off very well throughout the takeover, warning dissenters to keep their opinions to themselves, encouraging citizens to point out anti-coup activists, and keeping troops on hand for weeks to detain protesters and make sure rallies are contained.
Today, the new Thai leaders also said that an interim government would be put in place in about three months, but that residents shouldn't expect an election for a year following that date. We think might the tarnish the new leaders' "happy" reputation, no matter how many zoos they set up in the meantime.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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