On July 6, the Thai government approved the extension of an emergency decree in 19 provinces, which includes many in the heartland of the pro-democracy Red Shirts in the country’s north-east.
The extension came a day after the Brussels-based International Crisis Group (ICG) recommended the government immediately lift the decree and hold fresh elections.
But Prime Minister Abhisit Vejajiva, who came to power through the army’s intervention, crushed hopes for new elections weeks ago.
There have been tireless efforts to silence critical voices before and after the bloody crackdown on the Red Shirts in May. The International Crisis Group said in a July 5 report that more than 2200 websites have been shut down for alleged violations to the Computer Crime Act since the state of emergency was imposed on April 7.
In rural provinces, authorities have intensified royalist campaigning since the crackdown. Some village heads in the north-east (or Isan) have received two types of forms from the interior ministry.
The first one is for the collection of signatures from the population for an oath of loyalty to Thailand’s monarchy.
The oath reads: “This person wants to show their willingness to worship the monarchy… and to protect the monarchy with his or her life.”
A village head in Kalasin province said: “I was told to collect 300 signatures in my village. But I’m afraid I couldn’t because some of the 500 villagers actually reside in other areas.”
The second form is for “joining the ‘monarchy protection group’”. It instructs village heads to “organise” 20 people to “implement” the royalist oath. The idea appears to be to organise a type of royalist village militia.