Thursday, September 21, 2006


I took this photo last night. I like it better today because it's mood is reflective. And I think the country is more contemplative today. In the exhilarating rush of the Midnight Coup, it was hard to step back. Things were happening so quickly.

What kind of country has Thailand become?

I was watching BBC World today. They interviewed a Thai academic who had just begun to express an opinion critical of the junta. Zap! BBC World was off the air until the segmant had finished. Clean and clinical censorship -- exactly the way it's done in China today. It's quite ironic, really. The guy the army deposed, Thaksin, was widely criticized for having exerted too much control over the Thai media.

What a difference a day makes. Yesterday, Thailand was a free country -- one of the two most democractic nations in Southeast Asia. Also the country in the region with the most democratic "experience." But today? Today this is what the coup leaders have said, according to the NY Times.

“In order to avoid problems, the Administrative Reform Council prohibits political gatherings of more than 5 people,” said Thavinand Krongkrang, a news anchorwoman on Channel 5, a station owned by the military. Violators would be jailed 6 months or fined....

The military also ordered the ministry of telecommunications “to control, stop or block the distribution of information through all media channels that might affect the council’s work,” meaning the activities of the junta.

The coup leaders singled out several groups... urging laborers and farmers “to remain peaceful, because any gathering or movement right now might facilitate the work of people with bad intentions to cause disturbance.”

As for students... “Any of you who has an idea or any opinion, please send your ideas or suggestions to the army,” a spokesperson said in one of the televised statements.

There was only light traffic on the streets of the city. On the sidewalks you might bump into the occassional soldier. Thai television broadcast some images which suggested to me that tanks were being postitioned toward the outer reaches of Bangkok. The Guardian reported today:

Outside Bangkok's army headquarters, a crowd of around 30 anti-Thaksin protesters confronted a group of two dozen Thaksin supporters, who were carrying banners the rival group ripped to shreds. Soldiers quickly intervened and told the pro-Thaksin group to leave.

In a separate incident at Democracy Monument - the site of mass demonstrations against the military regime in the past - an official from Mr Thaksin's Thai Rak Thai party staged a one-man protest as a crowd of around 100 people jeered him.

Soldiers later forced the politician, Thawee Krikup, into an unmarked van after allowing him to protest for several hours.

Thai newspaper the Nation said several senior government officials and others close to Mr Thaksin had been arrested, with their fates unknown.

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