The rationale for the takeover – that Thai society has become divided as never before in the nation’s history, and that the threats of violence require measures to maintain peace and security – may be an accurate reflection of the current political and social situation. Undoubtedly, corruption and arrogance on the part of the Thaksin Shinwatra government undermined democracy and the Constitution, and it led people to challenge the legitimacy of the regime. However, the usurpation of power and trampling of rights and liberties by a group of officers calling themselves the Democratic Reform Council is in no way justifiable.The Christian Science Monitor, in a piece forwarded by Mark, writes, "the manner of [Thaksin's] removal by Army officers loyal to the Thai monarch exposes the shallow roots of the democratic institutions that grew in the shadow of past military regimes."
CSM also runs a short profile of coup leader and now interim military ruler Gen. Sondhi Boonyaratkalin, who is the first Muslim leader of 95% Buddhist Thailand.
The readiness of self-styled democrats to condone the military action reflects the conservative grounding of Thailand's urban political culture, which is shaped more by royalist hierarchy than well-defined checks and balances on a strong executive.
"They should use the rule of law to pin him down, rather than use a gun to get him out," says Pasuk Phongpaichit, coauthor of a critical biography on Thaksin. "I think it's important now that the coup group puts in place a new Constitution very quickly, or it could backfire and impact the economy."
Other critics of Thaksin, however, say that given his lock on the political system, and gutting of institutional checks and balances, there was no other way to end the stalemate. Thaksin packed courts with allies, politicized the nominally nonpartisan Senate, and muzzled television news. During a 2003 antidrugs campaign, Thaksin cheered when over 2,000 suspected dealers were shot dead in what rights groups called extrajudicial killings.
Image via Fringer.