Tuesday, September 19, 2006


Magical mystery coup

Figuring out the Thai coup is a challenge. I saw the CEO of Chevron on CNBC. He seemed rather pleased by the news. Chevron, just by the by, has a presence in the country. On the other hand, I saw a claim that the coup meant an end to unfettered globalization. If so, it would be a first. Army commanders are very rarely populists; Venezuela's Chavez is a rare bird indeed. London Independent The billionaire businessman described Washington as a "useless friend" after the Americans denounced his human rights record, and he fumed that " the UN is not my father" after stern words from diplomats questioned his bloody campaign against drug-dealers, which resulted in 3,000 extra-judicial killings...Bangkok's power elite and tax-strapped middle classes were incensed when they realised that the wife of Singapore's leader would oversee decisions on Thailand's communications satellites, internet servers, and its biggest mobile-phone network. Guardian: The coup met no resistance and went largely unnoticed in the districts popular with tourists. But street hawkers, fearful of trouble, packed up their wares and headed home early....Soldiers arrested the deputy prime minister and the defence minister. GuardianThe PAD cranked up its demonstrations into almost daily events and the three main opposition parties boycotted an April election Mr Thaksin called to let the people decide his fate.Mr Thaksin's support base of the mainly rural poor held up fairly well...For years Mr Thaksin, a former police colonel, has been trying to flood the top brass of the armed forces and police with relatives and friends. His cousin, General Chaiyasith Shinawatra, for example, was army commander until August last year.He was replaced by General Sondhi Boonyaratkalin, who quickly demonstrated he was anything but a Thaksin acolyte. A few weeks ago Gen Sondhi publicly lambasted Mr Thaksin's uncompromising approach to solving the insurgency in the three predominantly Muslim southern provinces that has left more than 1,700 people dead since January 2004. IPNews The coup comes after months of political turmoil in Thailand, all swirling around Thaksin, a billionaire whose Thai Rak Thai party won a landslide victory in 2001 but whose political star has since fallen -- and how. Public opinion began turning against him after reports emerged that his family had sold a stake in its Shin Corp telecommunications empire in January without paying taxes. At this point, I would guess that the support for the coup is exclusively the upper classes. Army commanders may have felt he was using too heavy a hand against the Muslim insurgents, costing them casualties. A more significant factor is probably that domestically he was seen as surrendering sovereignty to other Asian nations. My guess is that there is US approval of the coup, probably because companies like Chevron are getting promised concessions and security in exchange for support for the coup.
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