Rather than highlight its country’s beautiful natural landscapes or its innumerable architecturally aesthetic structures, the government of Thailand is relying on its brutal law enforcement methods to entice travelers to visit the region.
The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), a government organization, is poised to launch a campaign urging foreign travelers to experience a “martial law” holiday, arguing that tanks on its streets and men decked out in full military attire would make tourists feel safe 24/7, states a report published on Thai website Khaosod English.
“The TAT is preparing a campaign called ’24 Hours Enjoy Thailand’ to attract foreign tourists to visit Thailand under martial law,” TAT Governor Thawatchai Arunyik told a local newspaper last week.
“We want the tourists to be confident that they can travel in Thailand both day and night with safety at all times,” Thawatchai added.
Following a tense summer rocked by protests, the Royal Thai Army moved in to Bangkok and staged a coup d’etat, deposing its “democratically elected” leaders and imposing martial law.
Under the archaic law, written in 1914, the military suspended the country’s constitution and now has “superior power over the civil authority.”
Among other exciting attractions awaiting tourists, the Thai military might be seen executing warrantless searches on persons, homes or on “any building or any place at any time,” inspecting “any letter, package, printed matter ‘or other things transmitting within the area,’” and may even be seen enforcing a strict curfew from 10pm to 5am, according to Khaosod English.
The TAT’s leveraging of its country’s current military reign is concerning given that activist groups have decried the move as “draconian” and an affront to human rights.
“Thailand is using a century old law with draconian provisions that permit the military to exercise essentially unlimited authority to violate human rights if they are so inclined,” the Director of Human Rights Watch’s Asia Division, Brad Adams, said earlier this year.
“It’s a law that pre-dates the creation of all international human rights standards, and it shows.”
Last month, we reported on how the Thai government was moving to track tourists via ID wristbands complete with serial numbers and GPS devices. The proposal came mere months after the country banned the novel 1984 as the book began gaining popularity following the coup.
While visiting a country under military rule may sound like a Bizarro world vacation, U.S. law enforcement entities have been taking gradual baby steps towards imposing our own soft version of martial law.
Last year following the Boston Marathon, for instance, we saw how law enforcement authorities decked out in military fatigues descended on Watertown, training rifles on people and force evacuating citizens at gunpoint from their homes, while they went about performing warrantless searches throughout the community.
Indeed, one need look no further than the militarized police response to the Ferguson fiasco this past summer – where reporters and activists were detained, shot at and arrested – to see how civil liberties are gradually being eroded in the name of safety.
The question needs to be asked: Why go to Thailand when we are so close to having martial law in our own backyard?