The Nov. 30 edition was a bizarre one for New York Times readers in Thailand: the middle of the front page featured a large blank space. For readers elsewhere, it contained a strongly critical story about the economy. Namely, how the generals who grabbed power in May 2014 are shooting one of Asia's most promising nations in the foot.
The junta's amateurish shot at censorship is a timely metaphor for Thailand's own disappearing act on the world stage. Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha justified his power grab in ways coup leaders often do: we'll restore order, stability and competence to a government that's lost its way. Yet 565 days on, Southeast Asia's No. 2 economy is in disarray, investors are fleeing and Prayuth's regime looks increasingly desperate.
When you topple a government, even one with tenuous legitimacy, it's best to have a plan. Prayuth and his men with guns are devoid of one, making things up as they go along. Case in point: Prayuth stating in a televised address in October that he might "close the country." Not very reassuring, as these things go, and a sign that Thailand is at a dangerous inflection point: when politics risks killing the economy once and for all.