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Opinion
 

Thailand coup: What commentators are saying about the crisis

Published on May 23, 2014 7:38 PM
 
Soldiers march near the Government House after anti-government protesters were removed off the site following the coup being declared in Bangkok, Thailand on May 23, 2014. -- PHOTO: EPA

The Thai military took power in a coup on May 22, two days after it declared martial law in the country. The coup, which followed months of anti-government protests, has sent shockwaves through the region and drawn widespread international criticism.

Here's a snapshot of views from within and outside Thailand in response to the kingdom's latest military coup.

High risks in historic gamble

"This is Thailand's 12th effective, and 19th attempted, military coup since 1932. But today's Thailand is a very different place-a fact that General Prayuth Chan-ocha clearly recognised over the last six months as he repeatedly said the military had no interest in governing. It is no longer a country that can be run by horse-trading and backroom deals among political cliques in and around the capital.

Significant parts of the electorate-economically empowered, politically aware, and technologically-connected-including the rural population in the north and northeast, support the just-ousted Pheu Thai government. By tapping into that new base, Pheu Thai's patron, former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, unleashed a genie than cannot be put back in the bottle..."

"For the United States, the coup reveals a humbling reality and hard choices. Although Thailand is a long-standing treaty ally, there is little the US government or other friends can do to try to mitigate the risk of violence and bring Thailand back to a democratic path. Only Thais can resolve this historic political crisis... It (the US) should seek opportunities to connect with Thais, strengthen that country's institutions, and not lose track of the long-term US interest in having Thailand as a strong, stable partner in Asia."

- Extract of CogitASIA blog by Ernest Bower and Gregory Poling, on the stakes involved for various parties following the coup.

Mr Bower is a senior adviser and holds the Sumitro Chair for Southeast Asia Studies at Washington-based Centre for Strategic and International Studies. Mr Poling is a Fellow with the Sumitro Chair for Southeast Asia Studies at CSIS.

Military knights come and go

"At this stage, the people realise they have no choice but to place their trust in the army chief, who shares an immediate goal with his predecessor General Sonthi Boonyaratglin - to defuse the national crisis.

Beyond that is the hope for reconciliation and unity. Not an easy task. Unfortunately, Gen Sonthi failed here, leaving them in despair.

It remains unclear how General Prayuth Chan-ocha, who brought all conflicting parties to the negotiating table for the first day of talks on May 22, can achieve his goal...

Will there be any difference this time? Will the army chief be able to persuade politicians to bridge their differences and start talking, to place the national interest beyond that of their own? No one knows.

What is certain is that a coup or military intervention, while able to appease the warring sides for a short time, will not solve the deep divisiveness that this country has experienced...

Military knights in shining armour come and go. No matter how promising Gen Prayuth looks, we cannot depend on anyone forever."

- Extract of commentary by Bangkok Post Deputy Editorial Pages Editor Ploenpote Atthakor, on why the coup will not mend deep divisions in Thailand.

A way out for Thailand

"A general expectation is for this power seizure to lead to a way out of the dangerous political conflict and also to a general election that is acceptable to all sides.

We have come to this point because our politicians are unable to resolve their conflicts through normal means. And their repeated failure has been used by the military as an excuse to take action, from imposing martial law to eventually staging a coup.

All the different groups involved with the chronic political conflict should also be held responsible for the consequences of their stubbornness. They should sacrifice their personal benefits in the national interest."

- Extract of a non-bylined commentary piece by The Nation, on the coup providing a way out of Thailand's prolonged political conflict.

Stop meddling in Thai politics

"It is true that Thailand is not an isolated island; we are part and parcel of the world community of nations.

As such, the community has a legitimate reason to express its apprehensions over events in Thailand. However, while so doing, it must not try to conveniently insert itself into Thailand's troubled political equation.

By choosing to remain oblivious to certain facts and the whole truth of why Thailand is where it is today, the world's condescending criticism is at best unfair and at worst downright wrong.

The foreign press loves to drag the so-called elite, the "Amart", and the Palace into the picture because it sounds "sexy" and offers the intrigue of a conspiracy. But if pressed about what evidence they have of such interference, if they were honest they would admit they had none.

Their "evidence" comes merely from the words of biased academics, who are keen to communicate with them in their language of conspiracy."

- Extract of commentary by The Nation columnist Pornpimol Kanchanalak, on western media failing to grasp the complexities of Thai politics.

Uncertainty is bad for economy

"Two years ago, Thailand was selling itself as a regional role model for Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar. Today, it's a cautionary tale for would-be democracies, who would be better off looking to Indonesia and the Philippines for lessons on how to progress and build a stable economy.

Thailand's growth-killing politics is also deeply damaging the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or Asean, which met here in Manila this week to highlight the region's economic potential.

The rather milquetoast Asean has a strict (and high counterproductive) policy of non-intervention among its 10 members. Not that a communique lamenting the return of military rule would change the status quo in Bangkok, but this is a time for Asean to come together and condemn a coup that appears even less warranted than the others.

This is as big a blow to Asean as the Thai people. How does a neighbouring government conduct trade or foreign policy with a country so prone to changing personnel at the very top, and so arbitrarily? How do investors make decisions? While Thai generals think they're acting in the interest of the motherland, all they're really doing is setting up opportunities for blood-on-the-streets trades for hedge funds."

- Extract of commentary by Bloomberg columnist William Pesek on how the coup will affect Thailand's economy.