I generally take pride in not allowing myself to be sucked in by the mainstream media’s propaganda, but I must admit (head hanging) that, after hearing early news reports regarding this week’s military coup in Thailand, one of our staunchest allies in the war on Islamic fascism, I found myself thinking, ‘It sounds as though Prime Minister Thaksin had it coming – once he was elected, he morphed into a corrupt despot.’
That’s apparently what the media would have us believe. But there’s something very troubling about the recent coup that you won’t read in the mainstream media ...
Thailand has seen eighteen primarily bloodless army coups since the end of World War II. The vast majority of them have involved zero deaths. The leaders of the coups have usually enjoyed the support of the army brass, and the fact that a coup would occur was generally in the wind for a long time prior to the actual takeover, so the overthrown leadership usually disappears without much of an argument. It seems to me that, given the recent violent terrorist activity in the southern provinces, and the position that the coup’s leader takes on that activity, we would be extremely foolish – bordering on irrational -- to consider this recent coup as business as usual.
While the cat’s away, the mice seize power. On Tuesday, while Thailand’s Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra was in New York attending the UN General Assembly, the Thai army’s commander, General Sondhi Boonyaratkalin, seized power in a bloodless coup. Styling itself the Council for Democratic Reform, Sondhi said the coup was needed to restore Thailand’s political order. Nonetheless, the coup was condemned by the U.S. and other nations. Thaksin was elected in 2001 and re-elected in 2005, and he enjoyed wide support among the rural poor for his populist policies. Pro-democracy activists, the middle class and intellectuals were unhappy with his rule, though, and held mass demonstrations last year, demanding he step down. Thaksin dissolved parliament, planning to hold new elections to reaffirm his mandate, but to no avail. On Wednesday, Sondhi pledged to hold elections by October, 2007, but it remains to be seen exactly what his plans are.
Perhaps most worrisome is that, in an overwhelmingly Buddhist nation (94.6 percent), Sondhi is a Muslim. This is particularly troubling given that Thailand’s Muslim-majority south has persistently proffered organized, separatist violence with strong connections to Islamist terrorism (over 1,700 Thais have died from acts of Islamic extremists). While Thaksin has taken the hardline, Sondhi, on the other hand, has pressed for compromise. The possibility of an autonomous region emerging in southern Thailand dominated by violent Islamists is a major concern.
Though Thaksin Shinawatra may not have been one of Asia’s better angels, he was overwhelmingly elected in popular elections boycotted by the opposition. Then, given widespread dissent, he promised to step down from his role as “caretaker” PM following new elections. Now, at the very least, we can say this: Military juntas in a democracy never produce better government.
The Patriot Post
Patriot Vol. 06 No. 38 Digest, 22 September 2006