Just a Thai recipe for sheer disaster
The latest coup d’état to ground normal life in Thailand isn’t all that unexpected a development. In fact, tensions have been simmering underneath the placid tourist heaven, and the military junta only had to make it formal by announcing martial law in the country on Tuesday. Despite the occasion being about ‘preserving law and order’, the army had once again restored its complete hold on the government and the elected members have been asked to step down. The predominance of the military in Thailand’s chequered politics couldn’t be more emphasised given that this is the twelfth time that they have usurped the civilian regime and installed the junta at the helm of affairs. In fact, Thailand’s tryst with military strongmen goes as far back as 1932 when absolute monarchy was abolished, even though the right to intervene by the army had found constitutional support further back in 1914, in the wake of First World War. History notwithstanding, Thailand’s 80-year-long constitutional governance has seen more of military junta than civilian regimes, and parliamentary elections have often picked leaders who were favoured by its all-powerful army. One of the longest military reigns was during the period 1947-73, and since then coups and unstable coalition governments became the norm, interspersed by violent and vehement pro-democracy protests which were brutally cracked down. The current political impasse therefore has too many precedents which make it both a question of interpreting its unique power struggle and the tussle between factious elites representing either the army or the civilian state.
The coup, a battle of motives between General Prayuth Chan-ocha and detained prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra and her exiled brother, former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, is also an assault orchestrated by the Thai elites against popular democracy, and the leaders who gained traction in the last decade, especially in its rural north. Moreover, the political opposition had for months been negotiating with the army to step in and curb the escalating popularity of Shinawatra, finding a climax in events since Tuesday. That tourist paradise Thailand, one of Asia’s biggest economies minting its natural beauty to the hilt, has been nursing an open secret and has been trying to brush the extreme politically instability in its territory as just another hiccup in its tiring history, is self-evident. But Thailand, ironically, has opted for economic aggrandizement in lieu of broader democratic ad electoral reforms, much to the consternation of the general populace. In this stance, General Prayuth Chan-ocha’s declaration that the coup would ‘reform the political structure, the economy and the society’, therefore needs to be read in the light of the decades-old history of internal conflict that has defined Thailand since the third decade of twentieth century. It also attests to the increasing hold of military powers globally, and much like Egypt, once again the forces of democracy have been dealt a rude jolt by the barrel of the gun. With the gag on international media and the general atmosphere of repression in this picturesque country, it seems that warts under the top soil of beauty are now undoing Thailand.