Fwd: [demleft] Thailand -- Onus now on coup leaders to restore trust of the people
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From: josephp@... <josephp@...>
Date: Sep 20, 2006 8:31 AM
Subject: [demleft] Onus now on coup leaders to restore trust of the people
Dear all. Interesting developments in Thailand. Here's a commentary from
THE NATION newspaper on the coup. The military has set up an Administrative
Reform Council which is now headed by Army General Sonthi. It would be
interesting to find out how long the military will hold on to power and how
soon if at all will civilian control be restored.
* They proclaimed to be doing it in the name of democracy, to wipe out
rampant corruption and to rehabilitate a badly divided nation. Now the
coupmakers have to prove their intent. And unlike those before them, the
Thai armed forces leaders who seem to have overthrown caretaker Prime
Minister Thaksin Shinawatra in a bloodless coup, have very little time to do
The world is watching and scrutinising. To many democracy lovers,
Thaksin'sdownfall, engineered by top military officers, led by Army
CommanderinChief Sonthi Boonyaratklin, turned back the clock on Thailand's
The use of military force, instead of a free and fair election, to change
government can hardly be condoned in a democratic society like ours, let
alone the fact that the coup took place just months before the country was
due to hold a general elec�tion.
The coupmakers are luckier than those before them in that much of society
now believes they have done the wrong thing for the right reason. But the
perception that this is something done in good faith will be extremely
fragile. Public trust in power in the hands of men with guns can last as
long as the smoke that follows when a shot is fired.
The slower the coupmakers are in the pledged transfer of power back to the
people, the more Thaksin will look like a "pretext" and not the "reason" for
the power seizure. Today, he is seen as a seriously flawed political leader,
who had tried to propagate and perpetuate a culture of corruption and deceit
threatened to undermine democracy as we knew it. Throughout his five and a
half years in power, he was exposed as a greedy politician who had pursued
selfinterest at the expense of public good. Even called a tyrannical leader
by some, he was accused of rolling back civil liberties, suppressing
dissenting voices, not to men�tion his flagrant violation of human rights as
part of a sinister design to dominate and then monopolise political power so
as to indulge
in corrupt practices unimpeded.
Ideally, the likes of Thaksin should be rejected at the ballot box or
through public pressure in the form of peaceful protests. The problem is
most people did not believe both options available to them would succeed in
removing him from power. To many people the military coup against
Thaksinmay be a necessary evil.
But make no mistake, the seizure of power, albeit one that was achieved
without the loss of lives, is nonetheless a form of political violence that
is incompatible with the democratic aspirations of the Thai people.
Democratic aspirations will live on even as the Constitution has already
been abrogated by the coup leaders.
The spirit of democracy that undermined Thaksin's apparent omnipresence will
now shift its watchful eyes to the coup leaders.
The Administrative Reform Council has pledged allegiance to democracy under
the constitutional monarchy and cited Thaksin's corruptionprone leadership
and his disrespect for the monarchy as justification for the coup. But it
cannot be emphasised enough that the coup party has now also concentrated
all power of government in its own hand unrestrained by public
accountability or system of checks and balances.
The coup group wanted the public to take them at their own word that they
would do their best to implement needed reform and rid politics of
corruption for now. They will be expected to promise to return sovereign
power to the people, organise a free and fair election and then ensure a
smooth transfer of power to the next democraticallyelected civilian
We expect the coup group to make clear how exactly it will implement its
plans to restore democracy in this country, complete with def�initetimeframes.
A transitional government headed by a respected and
politicallyneutralcivilian leader with unblemished personal integrity
must be installed and a
provisional parliament must be set up to draft a new constitution within
specific timeframes leading up to a fresh general election and a return to
Once a transitional government is installed, all coup leaders must submit to
the authority of the new civilian leader and bring back their troops to the
They must also prove beyond any reasonable doubt that they do not seek
personal gains from the absolute power they now hold or intend to retain
indirect control of the provisional government for ulterior motives.
It must be stressed that the first task of the coup group is to restore the
confidence of both democracyloving Thais as well as the international
community and foreign investors that democracy will be restored and this
time democratic development will be sustainable and democ�racy will come
equipped with inbuilt selfcorrecting mechanisms so that military coups will
be put to rest for good.
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