Wednesday, September 27, 2006


Thailand Musharrafed? Asia's Prussia, Japan, reconstitutes ultranationalism

Simon Tisdall in the Guardian Army commanders who seize political power by force often have the best intentions. But once installed they find it hard to let go. ...Gen Sondhi, too, is showing signs of succumbing to "putsch-itis", a condition afflicting military men with ideas above their station. As in the Philippines and Burma, democracy in Thailand is in danger of being musharrafed [after Pakistan's benevolent despot, Pervez Musharraf].... After promising to appoint a civilian prime minister within two weeks Gen Sondhi now says his choice could be a retired general. He claims this amounts to the same thing - but few non-generals will agree. He also foresees a continuing "advisory role" for his junta once an interim government is created. This will continue until postponed national elections are rescheduled, under military auspices, possibly by October next year - or possibly not. .. The junta has also launched open-ended inquiries into thousands of corruption allegations. If mishandled these probes could further destabilise the country... "There remains an awkward paradox for Thaksin's foes," said Nick Cumming-Bruce, a veteran south-east Asian analyst commenting on "For all the criticism aimed at Thaksin by mainly urban and educated Thais, he was still an elected prime minister with a pro-poor agenda that won him mass support." And as the generals doubtless realise, as matters stand now Mr Thaksin's Thai Rak Thai (Thais love Thais) party would almost certainly win a free and fair election... Opposition leaders, NGOs and regional experts are also warning that Thailand's coups, of which there have been 18 in 72 years, nearly always end in tears - and sometimes, as in 1992, in mass killing. _____________________ Martin Jacques in The Guardian Abe is a very different figure. He is much younger - the first Japanese prime minister to have been born after the war - and a product of very different historical circumstances, which has no doubt helped him to articulate the growing nationalist drift. His familial roots, moreover, lie firmly in the nationalist tradition: his grandfather, Nobusuke Kishi, was a wartime cabinet minister later imprisoned as a class-A war-crimes suspect, who by 1957 had become prime minister. ...[Abe]he has made it clear that he rejects the consensual view that Japan waged a war of aggression and invasion in Asia. He has also cast doubt - in a way that Koizumi never has - on the validity of the postwar Tokyo trials... These stances set the tone for what we can expect from an Abe premiership. He has made it clear that he wants to revise the US-imposed pacifist constitution and the Fundamental Law of Education - which was enacted in 1947 as the basis for postwar schooling - in order to emphasise moral values, patriotism and tradition... As east Asia consolidates its economic position as by far the most important economic region in the world, Abe's election makes it likely that east Asia will be the subject of increasing friction between Japan and China, the second and third most powerful economies in the world respectively. As such, the ramifications will not simply be regional, but increasingly global.
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