Duncan McCargo

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Thailand’s Army Tears Up the Script

There is a script for Thai coups: a day or two of shock and awe, seizure of television stations, token tanks on the streets — and then swift international reassurance, a plausible interim prime minister, an appointed national assembly, a committee to draft a new constitution and promises to hold elections within a year.

The 2006 coup followed the script almost perfectly, but still ended in farce: The influence of the ousted prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, was far from removed; indeed, pro-Thaksin parties won the first post-coup election, and the one after that.

The leaders of the May 22 coup are not sticking to the 1991 or 2006 scripts.…  Seguir leyendo »

Thailand is not one democracy, but two. In the 1990s the Thai political scientist Anek Laothamatas argued that the middle classes of Bangkok, educated and sophisticated, opposed corruption and embraced democratic values, while the uneducated masses in the rest of the country were susceptible to manipulation by unscrupulous politicians. This narrative is now being repeated by the middle-class Bangkokians who have recently taken to the streets en masse and occupied government buildings, forcing Yingluck Shinawatra, the democratically elected prime minister, to call for early elections in February.

In fact, the protesters themselves are proving Mr. Anek wrong. Now it’s the urban middle classes who are being manipulated by wayward politicians — like Suthep Thaugsuban, a former deputy prime minister who resigned from Parliament last month to lead the demonstrations — and who oppose holding fresh elections.…  Seguir leyendo »

When the first fatality occurred in the clashes between rival "pro-democratic" forces in Bangkok early yesterday morning, people were shocked but not exactly surprised. Pressure had been building for more than three months, as yellow-shirted protesters styling themselves as the People's Alliance for Democracy appropriated royalist colours and nationalist language to oppose the government of prime minister Samak Sundaravej and his People Power Party (PPP). Late last year, Samak proclaimed himself a nominee of the party's mentor and financier, the former PM and now ex-Manchester City owner Thaksin Shinawatra.

Although he was ousted in a military coup in 2006, Thaksin's five-year premiership has cast a long shadow over Thai politics.…  Seguir leyendo »