can’t see the forest

Thai Prime Minister Overthrown In Absentia by Military Coup d’État

Posted in foreign policy, Social and Politics, Thailand by Curtis on 9/19/06

The BBC reports that Thaksin Shinawatra, the Prime Minister of Thailand, has been removed from power by a military coup in which no shots have been fired.

Mr. Thaksin is presently in New York City at the United Nations. A Thaksin spokesman has said that the coup “cannot succeed.”

His Majesty King Bhumibol AdulyadejYet, His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej, currently the world’s longest-reigning monarch and a figure universally revered by Thais the world over, has not as yet denounced or contested the coup. While it cannot be infered that the coup occured with His Majesty’s implicit support, the military commanders in charge of the operation have declared loyalty to the King of Thailand and have said that “power will be returned to the people soon.”

Furthermore, although this is the first such upset to occur in Thailand in about fifteen years, they once were commonplace.

In January of 2006, Mr. Thaksin came under intense and sustained criticism for the sale of Shin Corp, his family’s telecom venture, to Singapore investors. The firm was viewed by many as an important national asset to Thailand, and Thaksin was also accused of tax evasion and further corruption. Massive protests ensued.

In February Mr. Thaksin dissolved his government and called a snap election in which his party won 57% of the vote in April. But the opposition refused to take part in this election, and millions of Thais cast votes of protest. Eventually the King of Thailand intervened and ordered the nation’s high court to rule on the matter.

The court ruled the election had indeed been invalid and ordered another election which was to have taken place later this year. The Thai military, traditionally much more loyal to the king than to elected government, has grown more and more restless since this ruling, and the recent actions in Bangkok can be viewed as a culmination of this dissatisfaction.

The United States has called on Thailand to find a peaceful way to resolve its differences. What a wise suggestion from the world’s leader in peace and freedom, considering there has been no reported violence thusfar.

Tanks surrounded Government House, the Bangkok seat of Thaksin’s government. Soldiers occupied government offices and an army general has been declared interim prime minister. According to current accounts, there has been no military violence associated with the coup as yet. No shots are known to have been fired.

It could be argued that the military has attempted to peacefully and forcefully resolve a conflict of interest in the government which the Thai people feel could not be resolved efficiently enough through the electoral system. Bangkok proceeds with business as usual in its streets and businesses, but international communications have been somewhat restricted and a clearer picture of the goings-on may not be available to the outside world for some time yet.

Mr. Thaksin is expected to cut short his visit to the UN and will be returning to Thailand promptly. [In a more current report, the BBC has said that it is now uncertain whether Thaksin will return to Thailand immediately. Perhaps his friends in Singapore would have him for a sleepover?]

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