Road to true democracy can be a very noisy one

THAILAND - If the mission of the coup was to reform the country into a sustainable democracy, then the junta has clearly lost its direction, especially after it launched a campaign to hunt down dissidents.

Maybe the People's Democratic Reform Committee's leader Suthep Thaugsuban was not lying when he said that he and General Prayuth Chan-ocha had been plotting to topple Yingluck Shinawatra's government aka "Thaksin regime" since 2010.

Though the junta has denied Suthep's claim, its actions have both covertly and overtly confirmed that the coup's one specific target was to unseat Yingluck and prevent the Shinawatra clan from ever returning to politics.

At this point, it is becoming difficult to believe that the military's sole aim is to introduce reforms and move the country toward democracy.

Since taking over on May 22, the junta has not stopped summoning people and arresting those who fail to respond.

Most of those summoned are activists and academics who just want to voice their opposition to the junta and the coup. They want to exercise their right to freedom of speech - a right that is fundamental to any democracy. Not one of them has shown any intention to create trouble.

The junta said it had "invited" these activists and academics to exchange political views with them and wanted them to change their attitude towards the military coup. The term "invite" is a bit strange, especially as many of them are being prosecuted for failing to accept this so-called invitation. The authorities know very well that some of these "invitees" are indisposed and though their relatives had already notified the junta about their condition, arrest warrants were issued anyway.

A good example is the case of veteran journalist and owner of the Matichon newspaper group, Khanchai Boonpan. The junta knew that he was not in good health and has been in hospital for a while. Still he was summoned. Khanchai's nephew informed the junta about his uncle's condition. So, instead of dropping the case, the junta decided to issue a warrant to prosecute him and then revoked this warrant without any explanations.

Now, the junta either has no faith in Khanchai or its working system is absolutely confused. Also, it appears that the junta is unable to judge who is a real threat and who foe or friend.

Besides, there does not appear to be one clear reason as to why the junta wants to prosecute people like Khanchai and many other academics such as Thammasat University's law lecturer Worachet Pakeerut. Voicing disagreement with the coup should not be a crime.

Thailand has been an open society for a long time, long enough for her citizens to know about their political rights and realise that they have the right to determine the future of their nation. Whether they agree or disagree, every citizen has the right to speak and express their views on what they want to see their country to look like.

A democratic society is never quiet, because in it each and every person has the right to speak and is free to exercise this right. A true democracy is one that respects and can accommodate every view.

A society in which people have to comply with their leader's commands is an authoritarian one.

The process of reform towards democracy needs to be an inclusive one and for this process to be efficient, it should allow every faction in the system to participate.

Maybe the junta should stop and realise that bringing about reform will be very difficult if it forces all the citizens to have just one political opinion.