Democratic thinking

Articles on democracy in the independent online media

September 20, 2006

Thai food for thought

The recent 'troubles' in Thailand have made an impression on the global political scene. The military coup has started peacefully without a single human hurt. How long is this going to last for?
Is Thailand another country that needs the Anglo-American democracy like a monkey needs his cellphone?

DNA from India reports:

In an age when democracy is spreading globally, military coups look old fashioned and archaic. Not that there are no attempts — in this century alone, there have been 18 coups, 10 of them successful — but inevitably there is pressure to democratise.

Thailand, which has a long history of coups — 17 coups or attempts in nearly 65 years — looked set for becoming a liberal democracy after the last coup 15 years ago. True, Thai political parties did not have a reputation for being clean, but ordinary Thais had let it be known, through the ballot box, that they would vote out corrupt politicians.

In 2001, they brought in self-made millionaire Thaksin Shinawatra, who promised to clean up the system. When he started making money through shady deals and tax scams, they handed him a less than decisive verdict seven months ago.

The ensuing political turmoil, in which he claimed victory while half the population and the judiciary thought otherwise, led to chaos, which could be the genesis of the current military takeover. Ironically, the country was due for elections on October 15, which could have made the picture clearer and sorted out the political stasis.

With the cancellation of elections by the junta and the declaration of martial law, the country looks set for another spell of military rule, though the army chief Sonthi Boonyaratkalin has promised a return to civilian government at some indeterminate date.

The motivation behind the coup looks familiar. Like most uniformed men, the general has sought to rationalise the action in terms of cleaning up the mess created by a civilian authority which has indulged in nepotism, corruption and the devaluation of institutions.

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