June 17, 2014 00:00 By Chularat Saengpassa
Elsewhere in the world, military coups spur fear and frustration. With the power of guns, big or small, all are supposed to speak and think less - or risk their own safety.
It’s different in Thailand. As we have seen, starting with the coup in 2006, Thais coped well with the military takeover. Locals and foreigners took photos with tanks and presented soldiers with flowers.
Well, the 2014 coup is even more peaceful. And unlike other coups, here or elsewhere, the military promised that its good intentions would lead the country through all hardships.
While people are waiting for that day to come, the military has also launched a number of campaigns, aimed to “return happiness to all Thais”.
At the start of June, the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) unveiled the “Festival of Returning Happiness”. It featured free musical performances by various artists including soldiers, free medical services by mobile teams from the military-linked Phramongkutklao Hospital, and free haircuts by soldiers in areas around the Victory Monument in Bangkok. The NCPO also made sure similar activities were held in other key provinces too.
The NCPO also gave a welcome surprise to Thai football fans by allowing them to watch all of the 63 matches in the 2014 FIFA World Cup for free. They have no need to subscribe to any TV station for the privilege of watching the big event.
While the NCPO seems to care much about World Cup happiness, it has not forgotten about non-football fans either. In collaboration with the private sector, the NCPO offered free nationwide screening of the King Naresuan 5 movie on Sunday. This campaign received was very warmly received by people, who packed the 160 participating cinemas.
Patamaporn Ratnatilaka Na Bhuket, an NCPO spokesperson, said the free screening of the movie showed that all sectors wished to join the military in restoring happiness in Thailand as the private sector had also contributed. King Naresuan is one of the greatest kings in Thai history, famous for his role in freeing Siam (now Thailand) from Burmese rule. The aforementioned movie is, thus, very patriotic in theme.
To serve more happiness, the NCPO has agreed to a plan by the Fine Arts Department to waive admission fees to various museums for three months starting from June 11.
The happiness being spread by the NCPO is, more or less, edible, you could say. Thanks to another decisive move, millions of farmers were quick to get long-delayed payment for the former government’s rice-pledging scheme. In the three and a half weeks since the coup took place, the scheme has shelled out nearly Bt90 billion. And from last Friday, the price of diesel fuel had also gone down Bt0.14 per litre.
NCPO chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha, who led the bloodless coup on May 22, has insisted that all the measures are designed to ease people’s suffering and give them happiness.
“They are temporary measures. So, please don’t think that we will spoil people,” he said.
According to the latest survey by the Suan Dusit Poll, people have listed the many happy things the NCPO has done for them. Of those surveyed, 93 per cent said the coup-makers had put an end to rallies by various sides and restored peace in the country. Some 87 per cent said the situation in the country has returned to normal – they can go to work or to school without problems. The respondents also mentioned the fast payments for farmers, watching of the World Cup for free, and the free screening of ‘King Naresuan 5’.
Last week, military spokesperson Colonel Weerachon Sukhondhapatipak told foreign and local reporters at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand: “We avoid the word ‘coup’ because what happened in Thailand is completely different.”
Prayuth, the junta leader, also showed us that the coup here is indeed different. Before leaving the Army Club last Thursday, he flashed the “I Love You” sign to all.