Video: Military coup in Thailand

posted at 8:01 am on May 22, 2014 by Ed Morrissey

The political situation has deteriorated for months in this Southeast Asia tourist haven, with the government and its opposition mired in a stalemate that now appears irresolvable. The military imposed martial law on Tuesday, and today announced that it was dispensing with any remaining illusions of civilian control, at least for the next few months. The army has already started rounding up the usual suspects in their second coup over the last seven years:

The Thai military has taken control of the government in a coup, the country’s military chief announced in a national address Thursday.

The move came after rival factions were unable to come up with a suitable agreement to govern, the military chief said.

Hours earlier, members of the military and opposition parties met for a second day to try to find a solution to the crisis in Thailand, which has been under martial law since Tuesday.

During the meetings this week, Thai election officials said the country’s caretaker prime minister and his Cabinet should resign and a new interim government should be named ahead of elections to be held in six to nine months.

But interim Prime Minister Niwatthamrong Boonsongpaisan said there’s no chance that the caretaker government will resign.

This coup takes place as other military clashes in the Pacific Rim have begun to light up. China and Vietnam went to the brink of military action over disputed territory, which resulted in riots in Vietnam’s cities that drove out Chinese merchants (but left Americans alone, interestingly). This morning, the two Koreas exchanged artillery fire over a longstanding dispute over territorial waters:

North Korea fired into disputed waters near a South Korean warship Thursday, a Joint Chiefs of Staff officer said, in the latest sign of tension rising between the bitter rivals in recent weeks.

The officer said North Korea fired artillery toward a South Korean navy ship engaged in a routine patrol mission near the countries’ disputed maritime boundary in the Yellow Sea. The South Korean ship was not hit, said the officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of office rules.

The official could not confirm a report from Yonhap news agency that South Korea’s military returned fire at waters near a North Korean warship. South Korean television network YTN said South Korea fired two rounds of artillery shells at the North, but other details were unknown, including whether artillery was fired from sea or land.

YTN reported that residents on the frontline Yeonpyeong Island were being evacuated. In 2010, North Korea fired artillery at the island, killing two civilians and two marines.

In the long run, this kind of unrest throughout the Pacific Rim area will boost China, which wants to dominate the region both economically and militarily, at the expense of the US and Japan. The less stable these nations are, the more likely their factions will apply to Beijing for patronage in settling accounts. That will give China a lever by which to keep these nations firmly in its orbit of influence. Whether or not that works out well for China in the short run — which it certainly didn’t in Vietnam — is beside the point. That may be why the Vietnamese authorities took care to protect American interests in the recent unrest, realizing 40 years after the Vietnam War that the US might be a better choice of ally.

For now, though, the coup presents some difficulty for the US. Martial law and military coups are antithetical to the American mission of democratization, but Thai attempts to hold an election in February to settle the matter turned into a disaster. The opposition wants a “people’s council” government instead of an election, which sounds a lot like a Communist takeover, which would be worse than the coup, as long as the military handed over power after a valid election. Expect the US to cluck its tongue at the coup in public, but don’t expect a lot of sanctions over it — like we saw when Egypt overthrew Morsi.

 


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That sucks, I remember Pattaya Beach fondly even though I departed the place missing most of my clothing, all of my money, and a respectful amount of my blood.

Bishop on May 22, 2014 at 8:06 AM

Cripe

cmsinaz on May 22, 2014 at 8:08 AM

Last time this happened the military put a muslim in charge… What will it be this time?

Too bad our military doesn’t march into DC and arrest some criminals there (1 in the White House, at least 4 in the Supreme Court, and about 500 in the Congress).

ConstantineXI on May 22, 2014 at 8:08 AM

Let me be the first to say it… Smart Power

Lucky Pierre on May 22, 2014 at 8:09 AM

Military coup in Thailand

In a hastily arranged news conference later today Secretary of State John Kerry will emphatically make it clear that he wasn’t even in Thailand!

Happy Nomad on May 22, 2014 at 8:09 AM

For now, though, the coup presents some difficulty for the US. Martial law and military coups are antithetical to the American mission of democratization, but Thai attempts to hold an election in February to settle the matter turned into a disaster. The opposition wants a “people’s council” government instead of an election, which sounds a lot like a Communist takeover, which would be worse than the coup, as long as the military handed over power after a valid election. Expect the US to cluck its tongue at the coup in public, but don’t expect a lot of sanctions over it — like we saw when Egypt overthrew Morsi.

More likely, it will be the Honduras model with this lot. “Restore the People’s Council to power- or else!”

Call something “communist” in any way, shape, or form, and they’re there salivating and yelling “Power To The People, Right On!”

Woodstock was not a capitalist event, according to them.

Over/under on Lurch’s arrival in Bangkok with a list of demands?

clear ether

eon

eon on May 22, 2014 at 8:10 AM

Let me be the first to say it… Smart Power

Lucky Pierre on May 22, 2014 at 8:09 AM

The problems in Thailand go back farther than Obama, and this has little to do with the US. We’ll see how much we try to fix it, but I don’t think we can hang this one on Obama, Kerry, or Hillary.

Ed Morrissey on May 22, 2014 at 8:12 AM

That sucks, I remember Pattaya Beach fondly even though I departed the place missing most of my clothing, all of my money, and a respectful amount of my blood.

Bishop on May 22, 2014 at 8:06 AM

Marylin’s burned down. Damned shame….

Buck Farky on May 22, 2014 at 8:13 AM

Martial law and military coups are antithetical to the American mission of democratization,

I don’t think these places would benefit from Chicago style democracy.

BL@KBIRD on May 22, 2014 at 8:14 AM

Meh… The cylce of Miltary, Civilian, back to Military rule in Thailand has been the norm for quite some time now. They’re a good ally and a mostly free and open society. Let them sort it out yet again. There’s no opportunity for China to stick its oar in the Thai water (and what lovely water it is!).

KGB on May 22, 2014 at 8:15 AM

The problems in Thailand go back farther than Obama, and this has little to do with the US. We’ll see how much we try to fix it, but I don’t think we can hang this one on Obama, Kerry, or Hillary.

Ed Morrissey on May 22, 2014 at 8:12 AM

That’s correct. I did a TDY there while in the Air Force back in ’92. There was a coup attempt in May of that year (my TDY was in August/September). This kind of thing seems to happen often in Thailand.

Bitter Clinger on May 22, 2014 at 8:15 AM

I predict that in a news conference later today, Øbama will allay the fears of “ordinary Americans” that their sons and daughters will not have to march into Viet Nam to protect American interests there and, at that same news conference, will confuse Burma and Thailand by using the names interchangeably. Who can forget Maldives vs. Malvinas?

ExpressoBold on May 22, 2014 at 8:16 AM

The problems in Thailand go back farther than Obama, and this has little to do with the US. We’ll see how much we try to fix it, but I don’t think we can hang this one on Obama, Kerry, or Hillary.

Ed Morrissey on May 22, 2014 at 8:12 AM

Thailand’s problem is a large muslim minority in the south, putting them over the line of criticality for constant troublemaking. It’s enough to prevent a stable government, hence the need for the military to keep having to take over.

ConstantineXI on May 22, 2014 at 8:17 AM

Marylin’s burned down. Damned shame….

Buck Farky on May 22, 2014 at 8:13 AM

I don’t remember names of any individual places. We got started early on the speedboat ride from ship to shore, the little dude had a cooler full of Singha that he passed out for free. By the time we made it past the Aussie bars on the beach we were full tilt.

It went downhill after that, or uphill if you enjoy engaging in behavior which is frowned upon in polite society.

Bishop on May 22, 2014 at 8:21 AM

We’ll see how much we try to fix it,

Yeah, uh, WE don’t live there.

Let’s focus on our own problems for once.

Murphy9 on May 22, 2014 at 8:23 AM

It went downhill after that, or uphill if you enjoy engaging in behavior which is frowned upon in polite society.

Bishop on May 22, 2014 at 8:21 AM

I never made it to Pattaya, but I’ve heard plenty of stories.

Bitter Clinger on May 22, 2014 at 8:24 AM

When’s my tee time?

MT on May 22, 2014 at 8:31 AM

Stock up on hard drives, I remember what happened the last time there was unrest in Thailand.

Mini-14 on May 22, 2014 at 8:34 AM

China and Vietnam went to the brink of military action over disputed territory, which resulted in riots in Vietnam’s cities that drove out Chinese merchants (but left Americans alone, interestingly).

The US doesn’t even register on the Vietnamese any more. They allow private property. The French are a distance second. The Chinese are the real enemy of Vietnamese. China is so big, it is surrounded by enemies. A competent US leader would take advantage of that.

rbj on May 22, 2014 at 8:38 AM

It’s too bad America doesn’t have a president now.
Oh well.
The world hated cowboy Bush.

vityas on May 22, 2014 at 8:40 AM

I never made it to Pattaya, but I’ve heard plenty of stories.

Bitter Clinger on May 22, 2014 at 8:24 AM

Crazy place. Looking back I feel sorry for the Aussie families I saw there who must have been looking forward to a nice family holiday. They had the misfortune to choose a week when an entire US Navy battlegroup arrived after being at sea for 3 months.

That’s why HQ chose Thailand for us, it was the only place they figured could handle 8,000 men who had been denied everything for 120 days.

Bishop on May 22, 2014 at 8:44 AM

Thailand’s problem is a large muslim minority in the south, putting them over the line of criticality for constant troublemaking…

ConstantineXI on May 22, 2014 at 8:17 AM

Sounds just like their neighbors, the Philippines (where my wife & I live).

itsnotaboutme on May 22, 2014 at 8:46 AM

I went to Bangkok for R& R during my tour in the Nam. I have fond memories of the women who provided loving services at a reasonable rate.

celtic warrior on May 22, 2014 at 8:50 AM

Ed,

Part of me wants to be logical and agree that turmoil in Thailand is old.

But why do we give a pass to this schmuck in the White House and the last two idiots to occupy SoS. As the article stated, the entire region is out of control. This is absolute proof that Obama/Clinton are clueless on foreign policy.

Quit covering for them, please.

kpguru on May 22, 2014 at 8:52 AM

Remember that Thailand also has a monarchy. This coup doesn’t overthrow them. If the king steps up, he might settle things down a bit. There is a great deal of respect for the monarchy there.

Thailand’s problem is a large muslim minority in the south, putting them over the line of criticality for constant troublemaking.

ConstantineXI on May 22, 2014 at 8:17 AM

That’s a big part of the problem, but yes.

Bishop on May 22, 2014 at 8:21 AM

Heh. I never made it as far south as Pattaya Beach, but I always loved TDYs to Thailand. ‘Nough said. :)

GWB on May 22, 2014 at 9:00 AM

realizing 40 years after the Vietnam War that the US might be a better choice of ally.

Funny, I’d say that lately, most allies of 40 years are realizing that the (current) US perhaps isn’t the “better choice”.

bofh on May 22, 2014 at 9:01 AM

Vietnam, Thailand, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and the Phillipines all should be candidates for a real old NATO-like defensive alliance with the US to maintain territorial integrity and open sea and air lanes in the Asian portion of the Pacific. Burma, Malayasia, and Indonesia would be prospects in the future. Containing China will not be easy but they are making an alliance more possible by ticking everyone in the region off and an alliance will do the job more effectively and cheaply than the US acting alone. If China was really concerned about the US seizing this opportunity, they would likely tone things down from what they have been doing. Apparently, they do not think the US will effectively take advantage of the opportunity they are creating.

Yes, I know some will say “why the US everywhere all the time”; but free commerce in the Pacific is in our economic interest and ultimately our national security will be effected as well. If in the future all the above nations become Chinese satillites like the old Eastern Europe was to Russia, the threat to our security will cost much more to counter than what it would cost for us to maintain a containment alliance now.

KW64 on May 22, 2014 at 9:04 AM

Thailand’s problem is a large muslim minority in the south, putting them over the line of criticality for constant troublemaking…

ConstantineXI on May 22, 2014 at 8:17 AM

That’s ridiculous (and 5% of the population is hardly a large minority). This crisis -and this coup is just the most recent episode of something that has been developing for decades- has nothing to do with religions. This is about replacing one system of patronage with another, the decline of the “network monarchy” system, the succession drama, all within the background of quick social change with the urbanization of the rural northerners.

I’d advise this amazing article by Andrew McGregor Marshall for those interested in understanding what’s happening in Thailand: http://www.zenjournalist.org/2013/11/01/%E0%B8%81%E0%B8%A5%E0%B8%B5%E0%B8%A2%E0%B8%B8%E0%B8%84-thailands-era-of-insanity-2/

It’s a few months old but definitely worth a reading; the best (relatively) short account of Thailand’s recent political infighting, its origins and what’s intertwined with it, in particularly the very problematic succession question to be found anywhere, I think.

joana on May 22, 2014 at 9:11 AM

But why do we give a pass to this schmuck in the White House and the last two idiots to occupy SoS. As the article stated, the entire region is out of control. This is absolute proof that Obama/Clinton are clueless on foreign policy.

Quit covering for them, please.

kpguru on May 22, 2014 at 8:52 AM

I think you bring up a good point. If it is old news, then we shouldn’t expect the rat-eared wonder say anything about it other than some generic comment about supporting democratic means of forming a government or something. If he goes beyond that and starts picking winners and losers in Thailand…. new game.

Happy Nomad on May 22, 2014 at 9:16 AM

I had an R&R in Bangkok in 1970.Saw cans of STAR meat in gravy,rats spelled backwards.For some reason I can’t remember anything else.

docflash on May 22, 2014 at 9:18 AM

Vietnam, Thailand, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and the Phillipines all should be candidates for a real old NATO-like defensive alliance with the US to maintain territorial integrity and open sea and air lanes in the Asian portion of the Pacific. Burma, Malayasia, and Indonesia would be prospects in the future. Containing China will not be easy but they are making an alliance more possible by ticking everyone in the region off and an alliance will do the job more effectively and cheaply than the US acting alone. If China was really concerned about the US seizing this opportunity, they would likely tone things down from what they have been doing. Apparently, they do not think the US will effectively take advantage of the opportunity they are creating.

Yes, I know some will say “why the US everywhere all the time”; but free commerce in the Pacific is in our economic interest and ultimately our national security will be effected as well. If in the future all the above nations become Chinese satillites like the old Eastern Europe was to Russia, the threat to our security will cost much more to counter than what it would cost for us to maintain a containment alliance now.

KW64 on May 22, 2014 at 9:04 AM

This could be my nominee for Comment Of The Year.

itsnotaboutme on May 22, 2014 at 9:18 AM

…It would be a slam-dunk…if not for a couple of spelling mistakes.
:)

itsnotaboutme on May 22, 2014 at 9:20 AM

Seriously, who gives a rip? We have our own coup to deal with.

HiJack on May 22, 2014 at 9:20 AM

Vietnam, Thailand, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and the Phillipines all should be candidates for a real old NATO-like defensive alliance with the US to maintain territorial integrity and open sea and air lanes in the Asian portion of the Pacific. Burma, Malayasia, and Indonesia would be prospects in the future. Containing China will not be easy but they are making an alliance more possible by ticking everyone in the region off and an alliance will do the job more effectively and cheaply than the US acting alone. If China was really concerned about the US seizing this opportunity, they would likely tone things down from what they have been doing. Apparently, they do not think the US will effectively take advantage of the opportunity they are creating.

Yes, I know some will say “why the US everywhere all the time”; but free commerce in the Pacific is in our economic interest and ultimately our national security will be effected as well. If in the future all the above nations become Chinese satillites like the old Eastern Europe was to Russia, the threat to our security will cost much more to counter than what it would cost for us to maintain a containment alliance now. – KW64 on May 22, 2014 at 9:04 AM

It looks like this might be what is going to happen. However, from what I understand India wants to formulate its own foreign policy and is unlikely to join such a coalition. Also, Japan is thinking very seriously of rearming. They no longer think that the United States is a totally reliable ally and that it is just time to do it, because of the growing threat of China.

SC.Charlie on May 22, 2014 at 9:20 AM

I remember Thailand from Army duty. Nice women-beautiful and graceful but with a garlic aroma that could level Tacoma!. No vampires in Thailand.

In part, I feel, Thailand’s demise is another casualty of Obama’s failed foreign policy.

MaiDee on May 22, 2014 at 9:28 AM

SC – Japan will re-arm regardless, as you noted.

India will of course determine her own fate – but our issues with China are much more eastward than westward. Once you had a working group of nations working to respond collectively to China – India would see where it was advantageous to cooperate in areas where both her and the alliance’s interests aligned. And I think that would be a pretty significant amount of the time.

Zomcon JEM on May 22, 2014 at 9:28 AM

This could be my nominee for Comment Of The Year.

itsnotaboutme on May 22, 2014 at 9:18 AM

.
I immediately thought of SEATO which had a chequered and short history, marked by internal disagreements and finally disintegrated due to “disinterest.” Has SE Asia really changed all that much in 40 years? The cultures there are thousands of years old…

ExpressoBold on May 22, 2014 at 9:54 AM

Just a comment about perspective. An NFL recruit blissfully confesses to sexual perversion –rating about 700 HA comments.

A military takeover of a key US ally in Asia rates about 35.

Sad.

MaiDee on May 22, 2014 at 9:54 AM

Chi-na.
Next.

albill on May 22, 2014 at 9:58 AM

Vietnam, Thailand, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and the Phillipines all should be candidates for a real old NATO-like defensive alliance with the US to maintain territorial integrity and open sea and air lanes in the Asian portion of the Pacific. Burma, Malayasia, and Indonesia would be prospects in the future. Containing China will not be easy but they are making an alliance more possible by ticking everyone in the region off and an alliance will do the job more effectively and cheaply than the US acting alone. If China was really concerned about the US seizing this opportunity, they would likely tone things down from what they have been doing. Apparently, they do not think the US will effectively take advantage of the opportunity they are creating.

Yes, I know some will say “why the US everywhere all the time”; but free commerce in the Pacific is in our economic interest and ultimately our national security will be effected as well. If in the future all the above nations become Chinese satillites like the old Eastern Europe was to Russia, the threat to our security will cost much more to counter than what it would cost for us to maintain a containment alliance now.

KW64 on May 22, 2014 at 9:04 AM

There actually used to be a SEATO, but it disintegrated in the 1970s. Ironically, it was headquartered in Bangkok, Thailand.

ReaganWasRight on May 22, 2014 at 10:02 AM

I immediately thought of SEATO which had a chequered and short history, marked by internal disagreements and finally disintegrated due to “disinterest.” Has SE Asia really changed all that much in 40 years? The cultures there are thousands of years old…

ExpressoBold on May 22, 2014 at 9:54 AM

China and the threat it poses has changed and the relative power of the US and China has changed. Nothing overcomes petty disagreements like common danger.

KW64 on May 22, 2014 at 10:02 AM

Spent a year in Northern Thailand ca 1970. Loved the people. Loved the country. Tolerated the Army.

vnvet on May 22, 2014 at 10:03 AM

If China was really concerned about the US seizing this opportunity, they would likely tone things down from what they have been doing. Apparently, they do not think the US will effectively take advantage of the opportunity they are creating.

KW64 on May 22, 2014 at 9:04 AM

China and every other country in East Eurasia knows as well as you that the rapidly declining US could never sustain such an effort.

DarkCurrent on May 22, 2014 at 10:03 AM

I was reading the Singapore news online a few days ago. I don’t think they see this in the same way we do.

There was an article about how many Singaporeans had no plans on canceling their vacations to Thailand. One was quoted (a dental hygienist) as saying something like “Oh, they always have these problems. We’re still going to Bangkok. If there is trouble we’ll just stay in our hotel room.”

Most of us ( me included) would be like.. “No way.. a coup.. are you crazy?” but they just seemed to take it in stride. And the other thing I’m thinking.. there’s a coup going on and yet all the tourist areas are still open? How bad is this?

JellyToast on May 22, 2014 at 10:03 AM

The problems in Thailand go back farther than Obama, and this has little to do with the US. We’ll see how much we try to fix it, but I don’t think we can hang this one on Obama, Kerry, or Hillary.

Ed Morrissey on May 22, 2014 at 8:12 AM

…of course!…”they just heard about it”…like the rest of us!

KOOLAID2 on May 22, 2014 at 10:05 AM

This is off the subject but what in the hell is Kerry doing about that poor Marine in Mexico being held captive? Kerry was in Mexico this week and I bet he didn’t even bring this up. What a worthless man and he works for another worthless boy.

garydt on May 22, 2014 at 10:06 AM

12+ military coups since 1932 in Thailand. Did the US founders not call for such a thing from time to time here?

antisense on May 22, 2014 at 10:11 AM

China and every other country in East Eurasia knows as well as you that the rapidly declining US could never sustain such an effort.

DarkCurrent on May 22, 2014 at 10:03 AM

I know you like your new home, but you actually sound like you’re cheering for the demise of the U.S. Who knows, you might get your wish, but you may not be happy with the way China behaves once the U.S. is no longer in the picture.

ReaganWasRight on May 22, 2014 at 10:13 AM

SC – Japan will re-arm regardless, as you noted.

India will of course determine her own fate – but our issues with China are much more eastward than westward. Once you had a working group of nations working to respond collectively to China – India would see where it was advantageous to cooperate in areas where both her and the alliance’s interests aligned. And I think that would be a pretty significant amount of the time.

Zomcon JEM on May 22, 2014 at 9:28 AM

That the era of passive Japanese accommodation has ended is a major contribution to such a defensive alliance. When they sat under the nuclear umbrella of a totally dominant and reliable power like the US was decades ago they did not make the defensive effort to make a decisive contribution to such an alliance. Also, in past decades, their neighbors were scared of Japanese economic power rather than seeing them as a balance to Chinese economic power. While there is still resentment of Japan’s WWII actions, China’s offenses are much more recent and relevant.

India’s sea-based challenge from China is not nearly as critical as it is with the Southeast Asian nations. Their territorial disputes with China are over unproductive difficult mountainous areas that provide some natural defensive barrier to both sides. Conflict is not in either country’s interest as there is little to be gained and much cost. India will lean toward a South Asian alliance diplomatically but may not see their interest sufficiently threatened to go to war over Islands off China’s east coast. Just the fact that they provide a potential threat to the west is still useful. India is also still preoccupied with Pakistan and Islamist threats and the need to overcome barriers to internal development.

KW64 on May 22, 2014 at 10:21 AM

I know you like your new home, but you actually sound like you’re cheering for the demise of the U.S. Who knows, you might get your wish, but you may not be happy with the way China behaves once the U.S. is no longer in the picture.

ReaganWasRight on May 22, 2014 at 10:13 AM

Not a new home, I’ve lived here nearly a decade and 9 years next door. I’m not cheering for the demise of the U.S., just facing unpleasant facts.

DarkCurrent on May 22, 2014 at 10:26 AM

China and every other country in East Eurasia knows as well as you that the rapidly declining US could never sustain such an effort.

DarkCurrent on May 22, 2014 at 10:03 AM

Willingness and capability are two different things. I think the US is still capable of this. The question is whether the leadership will be there to create the willingness. This administration despite its rhetoric of a pivot to Asia does not seem to have the will. However,a future president might and if that president also reverses the policies leading to our economic decline, the capability will be preserved rather than lost. The public will not generate interest in these matters on their own but I suspect they will follow if properly lead.

KW64 on May 22, 2014 at 10:28 AM

Lol my honeymoon was supposed to start next Tue in Thailand…

criticalvic on May 22, 2014 at 10:33 AM

Willingness and capability are two different things. I think the US is still capable of this. The question is whether the leadership will be there to create the willingness. This administration despite its rhetoric of a pivot to Asia does not seem to have the will. However,a future president might and if that president also reverses the policies leading to our economic decline, the capability will be preserved rather than lost. The public will not generate interest in these matters on their own but I suspect they will follow if properly lead.

KW64 on May 22, 2014 at 10:28 AM

Do you really think that is likely?

DarkCurrent on May 22, 2014 at 10:34 AM

KOOLAID2 on May 22, 2014 at 10:05 AM

Well said!

tomshup on May 22, 2014 at 10:44 AM

Do you really think that is likely?

DarkCurrent on May 22, 2014 at 10:34 AM

There is always hope until there is no hope :)

Let’s see who wins the election in 2016.

KW64 on May 22, 2014 at 10:53 AM

This European dude wrote a book about how the Thai and the US joint military games shot down the Malaysian airliner…based on witnesses from an oil rig.

Schadenfreude on May 22, 2014 at 11:21 AM

KW64 on May 22, 2014 at 9:04 AM

Why would you exclude Australia, New Zealand and Singapore?

Schadenfreude on May 22, 2014 at 11:25 AM

North and South Korea are on fire.

Schadenfreude on May 22, 2014 at 11:27 AM

Why would you exclude Australia, New Zealand and Singapore?

Schadenfreude on May 22, 2014 at 11:25 AM

They of course are not excluded but their territorial rights are not under seige at the moment and they are not on the front line at the moment. Countries join alliances of committment when they feel threatened. Would these three nations go to war over aggression against the front line states?

KW64 on May 22, 2014 at 11:40 AM

KW64 on May 22, 2014 at 10:21 AM

India’s main concern is Pakistan, which is the only nuclear armed Islamic country. India could easily become the dominant sea power in the Arabian Sea, the Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean.

SC.Charlie on May 22, 2014 at 12:15 PM

As for spheres of influence the US has been waning due in part to this country’s desire for internal reflection. It is also limited due to its loss of budgeting control and the inability to maintain a larger force structure with continued rising deficits and domestic spending. It also does not help when your Ambassador is a selfi shooting little girl. (“What did you have for breakfast?”)

China’s increase in hegemonic influence comes at the expense of the US’s decline and it increase in economic power. (Politics abhors a vacuum.) China is not well liked in may places for many of the same reasons as here. Its cheap product and labor are displacing may products in Thailand. China has been a tradition enemy of the Vietnamese for centuries. It invaded of Vietnam in 1979 as punishment for not following the line of the great benefactor from the Vietnam War. (See Kissiger’s “On China” and see how we missed the golden opportunity to end it.) Vietnam invaded Cambodia to increase its local influence and oust a pest Khmer Rouge, friend of China. Now China wishes to return to its status as the Middle Kingdom. (Again, see On China as there is a very good explanation.)

The many instances of instability do not follow a common thread. East Asia is not Europe of 1848. Thailand’s problems for governmental stability are long and documented as noted by the fact it has had 11 Coups since the fall of the monarchy in 1932. Be that as it may the Monarchy is one institution that most Thais agree on and greatly respect (That is until the end of the reign of King Bhumibol (Phrarama IX).

Thai have been trying to build democratic institutions for the past couple of decades. Following the bloody protest of May 1992. The country has tried to form a working constitution and governments. Following the election of 1992 the first democratically elected government was formed under Democratic Party leader Chuan Lee Pai. As a weak coalition it was constantly being challenged by the opposition for no confidence. It was able to maintain it position until new of an illegal land deal on Phuket (that is P(h)ooket not Fuket) was discovered. Some old habits of cronyism die hard. It was followed by another crony and opportunistic collation.

With the election of billionaire Thaksin Shinawatra, Thais thought they has a government the was above corruption as he was a self made man not needing the patronage of others. His programs like the one product one village where greeted with great enthusiasm especially in the rural areas were he gained much of his political base. As time went on his program for dealing with the drug trade ended up being a vehicle for revenge killings score settlements etc. He also challenged the traditional power bases and began to marginalize the royal house. His many reforms also brought great economic benefit for those close to him. And despite the growing calls of corruption etc. his party was able to win large majorities. With this began the rise of the color protest. The first being the PAD who were distinguished by wearing yellow to symbolize the the color of the King. This was soon followed by the Courts nullifying the 2006 elections due to corrupted action by the TRT-Thaksin’s party. This set in motion the next Coup.

The yellow shirt protest were for the most part peaceful. With the occupation of the Government House and strategic intersection. They also took control of major airports in the country causing large economic dislocation. The PAD’s support base has since expanded to include civil servants, state enterprise labor unions, the urban middle-class of other cities, conservative Buddhist groups, Southerners and the so-called “elite”. Except for the South, PAD has mainly urban support in contrast to Thaksin, whose base has been essentially rural. (Wikipedia) They requested the King remove Taksin and appoint a royal PM which the King refused.

It is a long and confusing story from the departure of Thaksin to today. Thaksin’s party was declared illegal and devolved. In its place came the People’s Power Party. With the appointed government of the Democratic party leader Abisit came the Red Shirts, Thaksin Supporter. They chose Red because it is favorite of Thaksin color not to mention the color of Manchester United. They have the support of the police and Thaksin. There protest caused great economic dislocation in Bangkok for many months and occupied large areas of Bangkok. They were forcefully removed by the Army. Following this a new election was held to replace the Abisit administration. The Pheu Thai Party, having its roots of Thaksin supporters after the People’ Power Party was forced to desolve, won the election and nominated Yingluck, Thaksin’s sister, as Prime Minister. With her new power in Parliament, she decided to force through a bill that included granting amnesty to many former officials to include her brother. This was stopped in the upper chamber, the Senate. However this was to help spark the new round of protest by a group lead by Democratic party member Suthep, The People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) and allied members.

Some may look at what the some goals of this and the PAD as undemocratic. But, our Founding Fathers feared purely democratic rule. They also feared tyranny of the majority. (If people were angles, they would not need government, and governments are formed by people, deeding restraints.) The PDRC goals seems to desire a balance, a compromise, a middle way. As the Thai Military today wishes not to repeat the past of 1992 and strives to stay removed form politics, it is regarded by many as positive force in the country. We will see if it can use this power to perhaps forge a compromise the can put Thailand back to political stability.

tuptian on May 22, 2014 at 1:13 PM

Thailand political crisis, 2013-2014
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US is reviewing military and other aid to Thailand following military’s decision to suspend constitution and take control of the government, US Secretary of State John Kerry says – @Reuters

canopfor on May 22, 2014 at 1:14 PM

Thailand political crisis, 2013-2014
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Secretary of State John Kerry: There is ‘no justification for this military coup’ in Thailand – @APDiploWriter

canopfor on May 22, 2014 at 1:21 PM

It’s a few months old but definitely worth a reading; the best (relatively) short account of Thailand’s recent political infighting, its origins and what’s intertwined with it, in particularly the very problematic succession question to be found anywhere, I think.

joana on May 22, 2014 at 9:11 AM

From the article, it sounds like the Obama administration and Congressional Democrats would have fit in well with Vajiralongkorn. His inner circle seemed to have many of the same moral attributes currently on display with current cabinet heads in the Obama administration. While they may not have flocked together, they certainly were birds of the same feather.

Thank you for sharing.

dominigan on May 22, 2014 at 1:41 PM

What Westerners don’t seem to realize is that the Thai military is probably the least corrupt entity in Thailand.

The two sides, supporters of the previous billionaire Prime Minister Thaksin, whose supporters were seen to engage in intimidation and blatant vote buying in the previous election and the UDD which wants reforms put in place before any more elections are held, were holding competing demonstrations and engaging in increasing violence with each other.

The military had to step in to prevent escalating violence.

A coup in Thailand is different from a coup in Egypt, South American or just about any place else in the world.

One reaction to the coup is the rush to take “selfies” with the soldiers. During the previous “coup” there was a group of “ago-go” girls called the “Coyote Girls” who danced on the tanks in the middle of the shopping/entertainment area.

Thai coups, as well as Thai demonstrations have rates of death and injury that lower than most places have during times of peace.

Right now most Thais are just tired of the corruption and would like for it to stop.

And a pony, they would really like a pony too.

schmuck281 on May 23, 2014 at 1:27 AM

In no way is the Thai military the least corrupt body in Thailand, they are responsible for civil rights violations that would make Assad think twice, mass murder is not beneath them and is not limited to protestor crackdowns like in 2010 when they murdered more than 90 civilians.

Also an interesting anecdote for Ed: One of your former colleagues Michael Yon is currently working as a propagandist for the group calling for the “People’s Council” you mention in this article. Check out his Facebook page if you don’t believe me, the man has gone full fascist and is absolutely giddy about the coup.

Typhonsentra on May 23, 2014 at 1:48 AM

I visited the city of Chiang Mai, Thailand in 2009 with my dad. It’s a beautiful country, and they have a beautiful sense of artistry. The people were extraordinarily friendly and helpful. I hope they resolve this with minimal loss of life and property!

Cheshire_Kat on May 23, 2014 at 3:31 AM

Quite a puzzle! Perhaps Ambassador Rodman can shed some light?

virgo on May 23, 2014 at 10:25 AM