June 24, 2014 00:00 By Budsarakham Sinlapalavan
Since May 22, when the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) took over the reins of the country, the public has been presented with some pleasant surprises.
As part of its “returning happiness to the Thai people” campaign, the junta has been offering many freebies – ranging from musical performances and tickets to the “King Naresuan 5” epic, to making all World Cup matches available on free TV.
Then last week, the NCPO tried to tackle more problems that Bangkokians face on a daily basis – issues that few other governments have confronted before.
It is trying, for instance, to ease the traffic at Victory Monument by moving public-transport vans to under the Makkasan Airport Link Station, trying to control motorcycle taxi fares, trying to end the mafia-like operation of illegal taxis at Suvarnabhumi Airport, and trying to bring down the price of lottery tickets.
The NCPO is planning to introduce a smart-card system for taxis at the airport, in order to break the cabbies’ habit of rejecting short-haul passengers for long-haul ones. After all, a short trip doesn’t earn them as much as a trip to Pattaya would.
Also, keeping in line with the Thai saying – that a “poor man buys lottery tickets, a rich man buys stocks” – the junta has cut down the price of lottery tickets to a more affordable Bt80 from Bt110-Bt220.
Though the coup-makers’ biggest task is introducing reforms at a national level, their move to first deal with problems at the ground level is gaining attention. Its move to “return happiness” and remove daily annoyances is helping the public to temporarily forget the different political colours – which brings the junta one step closer to bridging the colour divide. Maybe Thais will, hopefully soon, forget about their political differences and start living in harmony again.
A recent Nida poll has revealed that people are generally happy with the junta and many respondents have even said they want NCPO leader General Prayuth Chan-ocha to be prime minister in the interim government about to be set up.
Yet, though most Thais are happy with the NCPO and the military’s efforts, there is still a minority that is standing strong against the coup – albeit quietly. And many – including foreigners – are watching closely to see what the NCPO is going to surprise the public with next.
The NCPO has, perhaps wisely, decided to work on small matters first to win some public trust. This way, it will become easier for it to do bigger things – such as setting up a National Legislative Assembly, a Cabinet and the so-called Reform Council.
For now, let’s just wait and see what surprises the NCPO has in store next.