Saturday, September 23, 2006

The Coup: Everybody saw it coming

I assume that by now everybody knows that a coup had happened in Bangkok and because we are living far away from the capital we really didn’t feel the tension or the joy of it. As I watched the TV and observed the community there was no fear at all. The atmosphere was relax and jovial, as if the people were actually celebrating. My knowledge of Thai politics is very limited.

Here in the north, it is very well known that the deposed Prime Minister had helped many poor people and he has some kind of following here. But the people decided to stay quiet. However, I believe the Thai people expected the coup. They actually anticipate its coming. Perhaps the question they ask is: why it took this long?

I found a comment in a blog that I want to quote in here in relation to the Philippine situation. The commentator have a good insight about the situation:

Apparently there are more twists and turns, plots and subplots in this Thai episode than one could imagine. The Nation story portrays Sonthi as the apparent hero in this evolving saga. Reading the story I’m amazed at what kind of fly (or flies)-on-the-wall om both sides of the globe the paper must have to piece together this fascinating blow-by-blow insider account of what really happened in the last few days. I’m also a bit surprised at the certainty of the poll results just two days after the coup. I don’t know, maybe this story is just too “convenient” as “torn” says and maybe too flattering to the general as well.

I’m more inclined to look at this upheaval as a good, old-fashioned power play. On the surface everyone roots for democracy, but the reality is more like advancing one’s interests and reinterpreting democracy to suit one’s interests and beliefs. Isn’t that what the real practice of democracy anyway?

Shawn Crispin posted this report yesterday in Asia Times which drags King Bhumibol more into this mess. I find it understandable for his majesty to be concerned at Thai Rak Thai’s influence over the rural poor, an influence that the party is gradually trying to make less dependent on support for the monarchy. Since Thaksin’s considerable political power doesn’t emanate from the Bangkok elite and educated class, but from the rural peasantry (that accounts for 80% of the votes), he pushed more for an economy-led government and grassroots mobilization and at least paid a lot of lip-service to championing the poor especially against Bangkok’s middle class. These clashed with the status quo and may have been perceived to udermine the monarchy’s sway over the poor-if the poor becomes more well-off then the king’s influence might fade.

The parallels with the Philippines of course are thick. In the Philippines there is no monarchy, but there is the Church, which just like the Thai king exerts moral authority and powerful influence over the poor.

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