After a very very long time of not posting anything, I feel the need to talk, in a time where everything would push us to stay silent.
I am in Bangkok right now and I can tell you that I have never seen anything like this before. I was here in 2010 doing research on the Red Shirts when 80 protesters were killed by army snipers and urban guerrilla raged for 6 days and it was nothing like that we are experiencing now. Today the streets are calm, people go about their life totally normal and often say that at least with the coup the violence that has colored the street of Bangkok for the last few years stopped. But if you are involved in direct actions and critical speech the circle is slowly closing around you: censorship, arbitrary detention, accusation of lese majeste, and the treat to be processed by military court instead of civil court (meaning having no appeal and no trained lawyers who are not military able to defend you). People are called in everyday, detained in undisclosed in military camps for up to 7 days and then released upon signing a document in which you declare that you were not mistreated (which so far people have not been, or at least the people who are being detained in Bangkok - no one knows about upcountry) and that you will not take part in any political activity. If you do you agree in the document to be persecuted (probably by military court) and to have your assets frozen.
At this point about 400 people have been summoned, about 60 did not show up and are in hiding or already out of the country. They started with high profile politicians and political leaders, they then moved to occasional protesters and activists, progressed to academics and journalists and in the last couple of days the military started to summon people who have been vocal against the previous coup in 2006, student organizers, local activists. And this are datas from cities, what is happening in villages remains very unclear and based on information that brave people are collecting locally. And this will not stop. This progression represents an eerie escalation of the junta’s attempt to take hold of power by silencing potential dissenting voices and undoing the organizational structure of the popular movements that have dominated recent Thai politics.
Phone and internet communications (probably including this) are being listened, read, controlled, and stored. Not aligned traditional media have been shut down, social media accounts are constantly blocked as well as many sites. As I write to you, at night, only channel 5 (military owned) broadcasts images of the military helping people in the countryside while every other channel is frozen on a static image of army logos with underneath it, in a white font, "National Council for Peace and Order". Today, a taxi driver was arrested on charges of lese majeste after a passenger registered their conversation on inequality in Thai society and reported him to the police. I have not read 1984 in a while and I am scared to pick it up again and find out we are living in it. I feel immensely sad and powerless. I never thought we would live under a regime like this, my Thai colleagues never thought they would be back in time to the repression of the 1970s. Everything is filled by a twisted silent dark feeling of fear while all around us everything seems normal and usual. It crawls around us, ready to bite whoever takes a wrong step. We don't know where it hides or which step could actually be the wrong one.