Tanks are stationed outside the Royal Plaza in Bangkok.(AFP/Mike Clark)
The next two blogs I write are how I saw the coup from Australia.
I am in Melbourne, Australia at the moment. Yesterday as I walked to work I was stopped and asked if I had heard about the coup in Thailand. I hadn’t. As I got to work I was asked more about it. ?? So I got onto the computer and checked what had happened.
I was happy to see that General Sonthi had taken over, removing Thaksin as Prime Minister. Why happy? I was initially concerned that maybe some Thaksin supporters had taken over to ensure his power. But General Sonthi is apolitical. He is a professional Army soldier who intends to do what is best for Thailand and the King. So I was happy to see him in charge and immediately felt that he must have decided it was a necessary move.
It was still too early to ring Kanchana (in Bangkok). She would still be asleep. So I read some more about what was happening on the net.
People kept asking me about the coup and if my family was safe. HELLO?!? As one commentator stated you’d be more likely to be hurt slipping in your bathroom than being hurt in this coup in Thailand. Anyway, by mid morning here I rang home. All the mobiles were turned off still, so I rang the home phone and had a quick chat to Vava and Alif. They were getting ready for school I think and I didn’t mention the coup. They said Kanchana was still asleep. I waited until she sent me a text message and I rang her again. She hadn’t heard of the coup although expressed some disappointment that there was no movies on TV last night. She asked what I had heard. I told her a little. She was unconcerned and said she would go buy the paper for me.
I read a bit more about what was happening. Some of the foreign reporting was quite poor and DFAT had it’s usual unreasonable over-reaction. But it became quite clear that everything was OK. Thaksin had been getting more and more corrupt as Prime Minister and putting more of his relatives and friends in positions of power. He had used loop holes to avoid paying tax on a massive business deal for a telecommunications company that he sold to Singaporean investors. The other political parties were not behaving much better. Politics in Thailand had become almost as bad as it is in Western countries with the politicians just squabbling for power. The military had decided enough was enough. The government of Thailand should be here to serve the people and lead Thailand forward in a way beneficial to all Thai people. The current political situation was not achieving this. Hopefully the military will remove Thaksin’s mates from key positions and place in competent people who want to serve the country, they will hopefully make Thaksin pay his tax bill and hand over to an intelligent and wise care taker leader that can run the country until elections can be held again and the constitution ammended to avoid the politicians abusing it.
I talked to Kanchana again last night. She said people were happy and peaceful and everything was quiet. There was no fear.
People in Thailand generally like their military. It is the organisation that is there to protect them. From the polls I see this morning about 83% of people support the new leadership. The King has endorsed General Sonthi as the new ruler although no doubt he has advised him on the correct way to rule and to hand over power to the people as quickly as possible. It seems unlikely that there will be many protests. The normal protesters: The Dharma party, the students, the intellectuals – all wanted Thaksin out. Thaksin got much of his support from the rural people in the North and North East, but it seems that even these people support the military more than they do Thaksin. And in the end, the Thai people love peace and they love their King. It seems to me that the coup will likely be good for Thailand and actually will bring us back to a more democratic and representative rule. In fact already if 80% of people support the Army, then that is more than the 57% that voted for Thaksin last time. The coup may lead to a more unified and happy Thailand and may even help bring peace to the Southern provinces, who didn’t seem to like the last government.
The only sad thing has been to see the international reaction. Countries in the EU, Australia, USA have said that the coup was wrong. Excuse me, but please mind your own business. This is what is best for Thailand. There is no requirement for Thai democracy to be run exactly the same as Western democracy and in fact I think Thai democracy has a far better chance of doing what is right for the people. Something I have not seen in Australian politics for a long time.
Leters to Bangkok Post from Thais:
“…Democracy is not the mere casting of votes; it requires an institutional infrastructure that serves as checks and balances. For months people had strained to abide by the rule of law, it was painful. People from all walks of life had held peaceful demonstration after demonstration, presented huge amounts of evidence, and demanded explanations that had not been forthcoming…”
“…There are two points about Thailand which need to be considered by foreigners (Australia’s prime minister included). Democracy does not mean the same thing to everybody. Thailand is the most democratic nation in all of Asia. The democracy here is felt within the people rather than by rule of law. Most Thais do not feel this coup is necessarily a retrograde step. Instead, it is seen as a small deviation just to take stock of matters and most are comfortable with that…”