Over the past few days, domestic and foreign sources have been reporting on the Thai military, which took over the government late last month and has been using some carrot and stick tactics to legitimize itself. On the carrot end: street parties, free food and haircuts (!), concerts with young women dancing in skimpy camo gear, on-the-spot medical checkups, and a plaintive ballad by junta leader General Prayuth Chan-ocha. (Watch out, John Ashcroft. You're not the only hawkish world leader who's written a song to soothe the savage citizenry.)

"Returning Happiness to the People" (embedded, with translated lyrics below the jump) is pushing 200,000 YouTube views and sounds about right for a middle-school slow dance.

On the stick end: "Under new orders from the Office of Basic Education of Thailand (OBEC), criticism of the military junta is now banned in all Thai public schools."


... government supporters and opponents have been rounded up, journalists threatened, academics bullied and peaceful protesters dragged off the street just for flashing a three-fingered protest salute inspired by The Hunger Games. On Sunday, civil servants were urged to betray colleagues voicing dissent, and on Monday Thais were even warned against liking Facebook posts that criticized the military intervention.

The military government has also lifted evening curfews at ten beach resorts, leading to satires like this:

Effective today, tourist and non-immigrant business visas will be limited only to persons whose motives for entering Thailand involve solicitation of sex workers, consumption of alcoholic beverages and mind-altering illicit substances, attendance at all-night music parties, or petty criminal activity that doesn’t involve politics.

“Thailand can no longer endure the presence of certain types of undesirable persons, such as journalists, academics, NGO employees, teachers, responsible business owners, or those working for charitable social organizations,” said Air Force chief Air Chief Marshal Prajin Juntong, the NCPO’s economic chief and acting head of Immigration.

The Obama administration has suspended some military aid and canceled military exercises, but has otherwise been pretty quiet. It's tempting to simply condemn the coup—I mean, when the Myanmar Journalists' Association is expressing concern about the freedom of your national press, you've got a problem. Then again, editorial like this one make some reasonable arguments—the corruption, dysfunction, and deadlock under the old government seemed hopeless, brutal, and occasionally bloody.

But jailing dissidents and journalists is a horrible starting place for rebuilding your civil society.

I don't envy John Kerry right now.

“Returning Happiness to the People”

Lyrics by General Prayuth Chan-ocha

Melody by Wichian Tantipimolpan

(Translation by Khaosod English)

The day the nation, the King, and the mass of people live without danger
We offer to guard and protect you with our hearts
This is our promise
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?
Please, will you wait? We will move beyond disputes
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
Let us return happiness to you, the people
Today, we will be tired [because of our mission], we know
We offer to fight the danger
Lives of soldiers will not surrender
This is our promise
Today the nation is facing menacing danger.
The flames are rising
Let us be the ones who step in, before it is too late
The land will be good soon
Happiness will return to Thailand