Sunday, June 8, 2014

Another fucking coup d'état in Thailand

"As of this minute, I am taking over." General Pad See Ew Gai takes aim

 

Oh no, not another fucking coup in Thailand. Is it coup number 18, 19 or 20?  Or the twelfth since 1932?  Even the bloke on the BBC, shouting English in a public school educated accent at the monolingual Thai soldiers, does not seem sure. Coup 18, 19, or 20? The BBC is sticking to 12.  The Guardian has it at 19.  For some reason, I have it at 20 (but I could be wrong).  This is Thailand, the coup prone Kingdom, and the cycle and frequency of military takeovers makes things confusing.

 

Suthep: NICKED! (but not for long)

 

Fortunately, I was on the other side of the world in Savannah, Georgia. There had been next-to-nothing on US news outlets, and we had been following events on the BBC when martial law was declared in Thailand. What starts off as martial law in a country usually turns into a coup, so I checked the hot Yellow Shirt chick on social media (Facebook).

 

"Although the army has declared martial law, Bangkok is not under siege. There is no coup. Business is as usual. The military is facilitating negotiations between representatives from all sides to try to find a solution out of this deadlock political crisis."

 

Six hours later, she was soon proved wrong. 

 

"Looks like I have to revise this post since there seems to be a coup after all." 

 

Royal Thai Army occupy news outlets in Bangkok

 

It was the 12th/18th/19th/20th military coup d'état since 1932. Perhaps it was timed to fog economic woes? On the eve of the coup, the state planning agency announced that Thailand had slipped into recession. Was it a result of massive political and economic failure? No, not really. In the scheme of things, it was just business as usual in the Kingdom of Thailand.

 

The Generals announcing seizure of power in Thailand, May 22, 2014.

 

Now that the military has taken control of the capital, for the first time since April 2010, media and news outlets have been occupied, the 1997 constitution scrapped, the Senate dissolved. The Military has cleared the United front of Democracy against Dictatorship (red shirts) protest camps on the outskirts and suburbs of the capital; and ushered on members of the People's Democratic Reform Committee (yellow shirts) who have occupied Government House for the last 6 months. Stability has been achieved. Violence stifled. But only for the short term. 

 

 

Soldiers occupy the offices of The Nation, Thailand's English language newspaper

 

Up to 250 actors from the political and academic scene of Thailand were soon detained and/or put under arrest, including the ex Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. The Military nobbled everybody. They even arrested Chaturon Chaisaeng, the former Education Minister under PM Yingluck,  after an interview that he gave at the BBC office in Bangkok. Now he faces 2 years in jail and a hefty series of fines.  His example, no doubt, will serve as a deterrent to others.

 

 

Yingluck: NICKED!

 

The coup was a logical inevitability after years of political turmoil and instability.  Representative democracy has failed in Thailand because sections of the political world, and bourgeois members of the electorate, have no respect for the ballot, and lack the patience to see out the parliament of an unpopular government.  A democracy can only function with compromise or consensus. There's not too much of that in Thailand these days. Or anywhere else, for that matter. And, flailing citizens of western democracies take note, when it comes to turning a functioning democracy into a dictatorship, there's no better example to follow than the Thai blueprint

 

 

 

Incredible as it may seem, after many months of impasse and political bickering, the coup has gone down well with residents and expats in Bangkok. Thailand is a flop as a democracy but a popular success as a military state. Will it turn bloody in the land of the smile?  These things usually do in Amazing Siam. The longer the military stay in power, the greater the risk. Civil war in Thailand? Give it time, farang.

 

 


 

The Red shirts are the army in the shadows.  There are more red shirts than yellow shirts, and more red shirts than members of the armed forces. In the past, they have promised to rise up against a coup. Will there be trouble on the streets? There has been in the past. And the military won't back down if there is in the future. Losing face, after all, is a big deal in Thailand...

 

 

US Ambassador Kristie Kenney comes under fire from protestors in Bangkok

 

 

After comments by American politicians and diplomats about the failure of democracy in Thailand, anti-American sentiment is high in Bangkok, and Thailand at large.  The Yellow Shirts  are redirecting their anger at Americans who do not understand the nature and banality of coups in Thailand. They are at pains to stress that coups in Thailand are not such a bad thing. The elected government of Yingluck Shinawatra was "corrupt" and the military had to step in to "save" democracy.

 

 

The Queen Vic pub and club house. British Embassy, Bangkok

 

And what of the expats on the ground? They complained about the 10pm to 5am curfew (now revised from midnight to 5am).  Many Brits are pissed off because they can't go out boozing and whoring.  British diplomats at the UK Embassy on Wireless Road are less concerned. They have their own pub at the Bangkok mission, the Queen Vic, and, as most staff now live on site, they do not have to worry about stumbling home drunk after curfew and getting pulled over by the cops. Another pint, Ambassador? I don't mind if I do.

 

UK Embassy Staff Residence, Bangkok, Thailand.

 

Interior of Embassy Staff Residence. Mind those stairs when drunk.