Wednesday, September 20, 2006 at 10:44 AM

Thailand’s benign military coup juxtaposed with Hungary’s people revolution…

Posted by Anthony L. Hall

Yesterday, while Thailand’s Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra (Left) was strutting his stuff upon the international stage – at a meaningless Non-Aligned Meeting in Cuba and an equally meaningless UN General Assembly 61st Session in New York – army Commander-in-Chief Gen Sonthi Boonyaratglin (Right, in green) was orchestrating a military coup d’état to oust him from office. And, as of the publication of this piece, for all intents and purposes, his coup is a fait accompli!

I don’t agree with the coup, but now that they’ve done it, I support it because Thaksin has refused to resign from his position….Allowing Thaksin to carry on will ruin the country more than this. The reputation of the country may be somewhat damaged, but it’s better than letting Thaksin stay in power. [University student Sasiprapha Chantawong]

I appreciate how difficult it would be to disabuse anyone of the sentiment this student expresses. And I suspect that the vast majority of Thais share his (resigned) rationalization about this coup.Nonetheless, even a benign (i.e., popular and bloodless) military coup is not only inherently inconsistent but also politically untenable in a democracy. After all, no matter the extent of Thaksin’s corruption (highlighted by an insider’s deal where he allegedly sold his family’s stake in a state telecommunications company to Singaporeans for $1.9 billion), constitutional provisions were in place to either impeach him or vote him out of office at elections that were due within months.

Of course, given that, throughout their 74-year democracy, Thais have changed their government by coups as often as they have by elections, I suppose it’s no surprise that even former Prime Minister Chuan Leekpai seems resigned to military coups as an oxymoronic staple of Thai democracy. Because here’s how he rationalized the current military state of affairs:

As politicians, we do not support any kind of coup but during the past five years, the government of Thaksin created several conditions that forced the military to stage the coup. Thaksin has caused the crisis in the country.

I am not so Pollyannaish, however, as to be indifferent to the fact that – as military coups go – this one was executed flawlessly. Moreover, there’s probably no greater indictment of Thaksin’s leadership than the fact that no one seems to have lifted a finger to defend his government.

It is also noteworthy that coup leader Gen Sonthi reportedly secured the blessing of Thailand’s revered monarch, King Bhumibol Adulyadej. And, that King Bhumibol has endorsed him as caretaker prime minister until a new constitution is ratified and new elections are held.

Therefore, even though martial law has been declared, it’s reasonable to expect that democracy will soon be restored and all will be well in Thailand…until the next military coup….

Meanwhile, over in Hungary

Thousands of incensed Hungarians amassed in Budapest’s parliament square yesterday to protest the admitted corrupt practices of Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany. Therefore, it would be remiss of me not to juxtapose the Hungarians – who have decided to oust their corrupt prime minister from office by non-military, democratic means, with the Thais – who resorted to a military coup to oust theirs.

It is interesting to note, however, that Hungarians have not turned on their prime minister so much because he’s corrupt; instead, they took to the streets because Gyurcsany was caught on tape admitting the deliberate, comprehensive and systematic nature of his socialist government’s corrupt practices. Indeed, here’s a little of his Nixonian confessions:

If I am honest with you, I can say that we are full of doubts. That torment and anguish are behind the self-assurance. I can tell you exactly that all that we are doing will not be perfect…We did what we could in the past month. We did whatever was possible to do in secret in the preceding months, making sure that papers on what we were preparing for would not surface in the last weeks of the election campaign….

I almost perished because I had to pretend for 18 months that we were governing.

Instead, we lied morning, noon and night. I do not want to carry on with this. Either we do it and have the personnel for it, or others will do it. I will never give an interview at the end of which we part with each other in argument. Never. I will never hurt the Hungarian left. Never.

It is understandable, therefore, that even Hungarians who voted for him would now want him ousted from government – post haste! Indeed, here’s how one erstwhile supporter framed the situation:

The government has lied, we knew that they lied, but this arrogance afterwards…this is unacceptable.

Although paying homage to the spirit of their predecessors – who mounted anti-communist protests 50 years ago – these Hungarian protesters would probably like to emulate Ukrainian protesters who – during their Orange Revolution in 2004 – forced their corrupt government out of office by paralyzing its activities with daily demonstrations in the tent city they set up in Kiev’s Independent Square for 34 days. And all indications are that, despite his declared intent to sit them out, the moral indignation behind this mass civil unrest is such that it’s only a matter of time before daily demonstrations in Budapest’s parliament square cause Gyurcsany’s government to fall.Indeed, here’s how Ervin Csizmadia, an analyst with the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, assesses his chance of surviving the protest of no confidence:

It will be very difficult for him to survive, not because his own party will back out, but becaus
e morality is a factor that’s gaining importance in Hungarian politics.

NOTE: Latest reports are that pockets of violence have erupted throughout parliament square. But I stand in solidarity with these Hungarian protesters and hope that cooler heads prevail so that they do not forfeit their moral authority to force this corrupt prime minister to step down….,

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