October 19, 2006


Why this military coup is different (Rodney Tasker, 10/19/06, Asia Times)

The conventional Western perception of coups is of a military faction or individual seizing power for selfish, often anti-democratic reasons. There is little flexibility in this mindset - hence the uniform denunciation of Thailand's latest military coup by the US and other Western democracies.

Western media op-ed writers, apparently relying on precious little on-the-ground background, have highlighted the fact that ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra was a democratically elected leader and therefore any non-elective move against him was necessarily bad for the future of Thailand's democracy.

Such simplistic interpretations, however, just don't fit with the current Thai situation and woefully ignore the reform mentality of professional generals in today's Thai army, including coup-leader General Sonthi Boonyaratglin and former army commander, now interim Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont. Professional in the Thai context translates to military officers who take their oath of allegiance to protect the monarchy and state seriously, overriding any lure of power and money. [...]

Many Western observers still fail to appreciate the essential role played by King Bhumibol Adulyadej in maintaining Thailand's enviable political stability, economic progress and social harmony. Look across Thailand's borders to the comparative political repression and economic deprivation in neighboring Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia and one striking historical difference is those countries' lack of a figure of moral authority that genuinely looked after national rather than particularistic interests.

Which is how a monarch perfects a mixed republic.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 19, 2006 1:52 PM

I just came back (yesterday) from a 3 day business trip to Bangkok and outside of a few more posters of the King lining the roads and the mass of yellow shirts worn on Monday (a symbol of support for the monarchy) there wasn't anything different from past trips. Chaotic like all Asian megacities, but the place basically works. FWIW, the new airport (Suvarnabumi [pronounced Sawanapoom]) is a dream compared to the old one (Don Muang).

Posted by: TimF at October 19, 2006 3:52 PM

It's told here, and I suppose it true, that when the King was approached re: the coup, he simply said two words. I approve.

Posted by: Tom Wall at October 19, 2006 9:49 PM