The Coup in Thailand

THE COUP IN THAILAND….Earlier this year, Joshua Kurlantzick wrote a piece for us about Thaksin Shinawatra, the telecomunications mogul who became prime minister of Thailand in 2001. After 9/11, Thaksin responded to the terrorist threat there by passing an emergency powers law, dismantling local councils in the Muslim south, and dispatching thousands of soldiers to the south, officially turning southern Thailand into a war zone. This won him reelection in 2005, but since then the mood has soured:

As the situation in the south worsened, Thaksin chose not to respond by restoring rights and freedoms. Strengthened by his personal convictions and by the idea that as a democratic leader he would enjoy public support for anything he did, he took the opposite approach, muscling the press more and consolidating power. His notion of democracy only strengthened his resolve. ?Thaksin’s idea of democracy is he does what he wants, every four years you decide whether he’s right, and then if you vote for him, shut up again for four more years,? one Thai expert told me.

….For their part, Thais have begun to wake up from Thaksin’s spell. This summer, the prime minister’s popularity ratings fell below 50 percent, and confidence in his government has remained low ever since. The Thai media, like its counterparts in the United States and other democracies where initial rally-around-the-flag sentiment has waned, has become more aggressive. Thai journalists have probed procurement scandals in Thaksin’s government, and they united to help defeat an effort by one of the prime minister’s allies to buy into the most respected Thai-language newspaper, Matichon. Even in parliament, where Thaksin controls the majority of the seats, MPs have become so disgusted with Thaksin’s style, as well as the continued violence in the south, that some of the prime minister’s own party members have begun to speak out against him.

Read the whole thing. This is the background against which today’s coup in Thailand took place.