Sunday, September 24, 2006

Was the Thai Political System Really So Broken?

This Washington Post story provides some background on the political situation in Thailand prior to the coup, pointing out that Thaksin's opponents had scored some real political victories prior to the coup. The article concludes that "resistance to military control has already begun to fester." In my opinion, to say that it has begun to "fester" might be a bit of a stretch. But we shall see.

Analysts note that Thaksin's adversaries had yet to exhaust all legal means of opposing him, and they said the checks and balances of Thailand's constitutional monarchy had recently begun to function.

With a nod from the king, Thaksin loyalists on an election commission were purged by the still largely independent Supreme Court -- opening the way for a more level playing field in elections that were set to be held in the coming months. Thaksin's critics say his party was already gearing up for a cash-for-votes campaign that would have kept him in power.

Instead, with the military now in charge, Thailand has reverted to martial law. At least four of Thaksin's top aides have been detained by military authorities, who have also outlawed political meetings of five or more people. TV and radio stations have been warned to prevent criticism of the new military government, with armed soldiers stationed inside or near major domestic networks as a reminder. The military authority on Friday also named an official body to probe allegations of corruption under Thaksin.

Resistance to military control has already begun to fester. A group of about 100 university students staged an ingenious protest on Friday near an upscale shopping mall. To avoid violating the new military rules against political gatherings, they clustered themselves in groups of twos or threes across a broad public area.

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