Thailand’s political scribes decide junta chief no laughing matter

Bangkok, December 29

Every New Year Thailand’s top political journalists traditionally come up with satirical nicknames for the government and senior ministers. But this year they will forego the pleasure, having decided the junta is no laughing matter.

The occasion is usually a rare moment of light relief for reporters covering the febrile world of Thai politics, in a country which has witnessed a string of military coups, violent street protests and toppled governments  and where defamation is a criminal offence.

But this year, in a statement, the Government House press corps said they were opting to stay mum because “the Cabinet of (Prime Minister) General Prayut Chan-O-Cha came into power by special way, not by the normal election under the democratic system”.

The statement added that it was normal for the press corps to take such steps with coup governments, or during times of political upheaval.

“We also do not want the 2015 skipping of the nicknaming to be used to expand existing conflicts in Thai society or to be used as a political tool by any groups or individuals,” the statement read.

However the decision is illustrative of an increased need for self-censorship since the military took over.

Prayut seized power in May 2014 toppling the democratically elected government of Yingluck Shinawatra after months of debilitating street protests against her administration, fuelled by support from royalist elite and middle classes.