Bangkokers and the Coup

i don’t know if it’s alarming or comforting to see how mellow bangkokers are. sure, we’re a pretty laid back bunch. but people are going on with their daily lives as if nothing has happened. i was actually pretty surprised there were civilians out and about around the parliament taking pictures of the tanks and posing with soldiers.

not something i would do on a tuesday night, or any other night.

so the situation is, thaksin is reportedly in london on what the media is calling a “private visit”. sudaratt is supposedly in paris. and now the us is “condemning” the coup.

not saying that thai politics is hard to understand, or complex, or even “special” than anyother country’s politics, because it isn’t. corruption et al has been around since the dawn of time. there’re are so many other countries that that are in the same position. i don’t think you have to live in thailand, or be thai to comprehend the coup. but at the same time, it can’t really be viewed in such a black and white way, no? i suppose because of the time that is needed to be invested in understand what leads to the coup, ie. historical, socio, econo context, is quite significant, there are some that try to bypass the groundwork.

off the bat, a coup might seem drastic. even ‘a step back’ as many media sources are reporting. martial law is not something to be taken lightly. but as of now, most bangkokers and the rest of the country seem to be in agreement of the coup. at the same time i don’t know if a lot of people can answer the question ‘who you would like to see step up as pm’.

i really wonder how the next elections are going to play out. and what sort of policies that thai citizens will be looking out for, and what policies they will be giving importance to after the thaksin era. if more city people would now make more of an effort to reach grassroots people, like how thaksin did, and not undermine their political power. just because they’re out of sight, doesn’t mean they should be out of mind?

perhaps because i see a lot of bangkokers so mellow. about the whole ‘yellow ribbon coup’. and it’s a bit nervewrecking. at the same time i dn’t know what they’re suppose to be doing if not mellow, because freaking out isn’t really a better option.

sutichai yoon at the nation writes an article:

‘Yellow ribbon coup’ was a very high price to pay

Call it a “reluctant coup” or a “yellow ribbon revolt”, Tuesday’s assumption of power by military leaders was still a prohibitively high price for the country to pay to remove an entrenched political tyrant.

You can of course try to stretch the point and argue that Thaksin Shinawatra did ask for it. In fact, his arrogance and autocratic proclivity might have served as the last straw, prompting the top brass to opt for the “really inevitable last resort”.

While the use of unconstitutional means to topple a democratically elected government can never be justified, some insiders have suggested that Army Chief General Sonthi Boonyaratglin’s decision to topple Thaksin through a military takeover was in fact a pre-emptive strike – or a “counter coup” to stave off an even more ignoble “self-coup” planned by Thaksin to establish himself, once and for all, as an all-powerful despot.

General Sonthi’s assurances that the top brass have no intention whatsoever to hold on to political power – and his public pledge to “return the power to the people as soon as possible” – might have allayed some of the fears inherent any time the military intervenes in national politics. However, he will have to move fast and convincingly, particularly in determining how to embark on genuine political reforms, to offset the negative impact brought about by the putsch.

Of equal, if not greater, importance is how he can turn this crisis of confidence into an opportunity for real national reconciliation. Whether he likes it or not, Thaksin will always be remembered for his dubious record of having brought Thai society to its most divided point in history, centred on the wild ambitions of just one power-hungry politician.

Paradoxically perhaps, the political havoc Thaksin wreaked through his claims on electoral democracy will have to be healed by Sonthi’s extra-constitutional modus operandi. If the Army chief is able to use these “extraordinary means” to solve an “extraordinary crisis” in order to reunify the country and help Thai society put its deep divisions in the past, he might be able to claim, however controversially, that the ends justified the means.

Quite apart from the debate over the pros and cons of this coup, however, this latest political episode underscores a deep-rooted flaw of this country. The fact that this change of government was effected through force shows that, whatever we say about having matured politically, we are basically still an extremely fragile society.

In fact, we are so vulnerable that any politician with sufficient money and clout, plus a shrewd marketing strategy, is capable of whipping a large segment of the population into a frenzy, confusing electoral manipulation with grassroots democracy. Worse, once a corrupt and powerful leader is entrenched, none of the existing constitutional mechanisms are capable of dealing with him.

Military intervention in a democratic system is always a “bad habit” that may stick if we once again allow ourselves the illusion that this will be the last time this dose of strong medicine is required to cure a serious disease.

Even if the first declaration from coup leaders sounded uncharacteristically apologetic (“Forgive us for the inconvenience caused”), once a political precedent of such proportion is set, it invariably stays. True democracy means never allowing coup leaders the excuse to stage their next exercise, even if they say they are sorry for their previous one.

In other words, if we can’t devise an effective system to get rid of a despot through constitutional means, that means we haven’t really graduated beyond the basics of democracy.

Many forms of Government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time. -Winston Churchill

3 Comments so far

  1. KorBua (unregistered) on September 21st, 2006 @ 2:41 pm

    It’s just amazing how relax people are. I love the pictures though. It’s like Children’s day. :) It’s just way too cute. :) Just plain funny too I guess.

    The only thing I’m worried about is how we all will survive after this. Not just politically but economically. If this goes on for long, I’m pretty sure that we will be in trouble. Let’s hope that everything will turn out like it should be soon. For now, it’s just nice to read about what people think about the whole coup thing. :)

  2. inthaiguy (unregistered) on September 21st, 2006 @ 3:36 pm

    So far things are good, but elections in 1 year??? That is unacceptable.

  3. Rob (unregistered) on September 22nd, 2006 @ 2:13 am

    Hi guys, I just wanted to say that I’ve been finding your perspectives on what’s happening over there very revealing – so much so that I’ve mentioned you in my own blog on the subject:

    Keep up the good work!

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