Readers' Submissions

A Change for the Worse

  • Written by Professor
  • July 2nd, 2014
  • 6 min read



Having enjoyed reading the subs on this site for many years, I find it to be a place where I can escape from the real world and enjoy a few moments of relaxation, laughing, crying, and cursing the stupidities of others while reassuring myself that I am the only person left in the world who has a modicum of sanity.

One of the most enjoyable aspects of this site is the total absence of any political nonsense. If I want politics, there are plenty of other places to go.

I was surprised today to find my latest rant published next to a 100% purely political piece by Bangkok Barry, whose previous writings I have always admired.

Writing to Stick, I gave a mild protest saying that while it was his site and he could publish anything he wanted, I personally did not want to read political diatribes, especially those which were one-sided.

Stick, as he always does, responded immediately, saying he also wasn’t in favor of political subs, and that if I wanted to write an even-handed response to equalize matters, he would publish it as long as it did not criticize the military (criticizing the military is one of the things that is now banned).

So what follows is one man’s response to “A Change for the Better”. Obviously, since one of the realities of the current situation is that free speech has been banned, this sub cannot be as clear as I would like, and you might have to fill in some gaps. I hope that after this Stick bans all political subs.

It is impossible to review the current political situation without a historical perspective. It has often been said that in the last hundred years there have been 20 coups in Thailand. The first coup of any importance was in 1932, which overthrew the absolute monarchy in favor of a constitutional monarchy. This was the first time Thailand had a constitution, and many political and social reforms followed. After another coup in 1933 to remove the first ever PM, the military essentially took control of the country, allied with Japan during WW2, and in 1947 held another coup which solidified their power.

The coup of 1951 gave great powers to the military, removed civilians from the government, and gave tremendous power to the man who had run Thailand during the war, Field Marshall Phibun. A rigged election was held in 1957 to keep Phibun in office so he was thrown out in another coup and Pote Sarasin (father of Patee Sarasin, current CEO and Founder of Nok Air) became PM.

The next year the General who led the previous year’s coup did what was called a “self coup” and imposed martial law. Now I am a getting a little tired of all the repetition so will skip a few coups. In 1976 another coup was held, martial law imposed, and all political parties banned. Blah blah blah, another coup and another coup, leading to the 2006 coup which overthrew Thaksin.

But before we get to Thaksin, I want to talk about Spain. The Spanish monarchy was overthrown by Franco in the 1930’s and he became the country’s dictator until he died in the 1970’s. The son of the previous King was invited to return as a constitutional monarch, with only symbolic powers. A few years later, a group of army colonels staged a coup, went to the King, and offered to serve him as a full monarch. He refused, ordered them to give up, which they did, and were all sentenced to prison. Spain has not held a coup since then, and has been a strong democracy for the last 30 plus years.

By contrast, Thailand has suffered one coup after another, on average every four years or so. It is because of this that there is no respect for democracy in the country. People do not expect their vote to be counted, they do not expect their candidate to survive, they know anyone who threatens the old order will be immediately taken out.

From 1932 until 2004, no PM in Thailand ever served out his full term!

Thaksin is a very polarizing figure, and I am trying to write an even-handed sub. Without supporting or rejecting him, I will note that he was the first PM to ever serve out a full term and be re-elected, and also the first PM to win a majority of votes.

As we all know, he was taken out in a coup while he was addressing the United Nations, and the constitution written by the military at that time was just overthrown last month in another coup.

I repeat, coup after coup after coup after coup creates a lack of respect for democracy, and for democratically elected leaders. Had Thailand followed Spain’s lead, and just said No to coups, perhaps the country would not be in this situation today.

Bangkok Barry repeats in his sub “What other choice did the country have?”

I would ask a different question. How does a country grow and learn to respect democracy when every time they elect someone that person is not allowed to finish their term? Thaksin got overthrown by a coup; his successor got dumped when the yellow shirts were permitted to occupy the airport; the next PM was ousted for hosting a cooking show. The next election Thaksin’s party won but someone was bribed to change his vote to the Democrats. Then Yingluck was elected and forced to step down because she removed an army man from his position, and her successor was overthrown in the last coup.

When the institutions in Thailand refuse to support democracy, how can it thrive?

There are those who say that the army deliberately waited until the situation got bad so that they could be seen as saviors. They could have done something positive when people were erecting barricades and barbed wire on the streets of Bangkok. They could have supported the government when people were blockading polling places so that citizens were forbidden their constitutional right to vote.

It has been reported in many respectable foreign news media that hundreds of people have been arrested without warrants and have not been heard from since. The leaders of many top companies, including Thai Airways and PTT have been removed and replaced by people favorable to the military. It is also public knowledge and reported in the press that the army is systematically removing anyone of power who is connected with Thaksin thus ensuring that when the next election is called, the party that has won every election in the last 14 years will be totally emasculated.

The leader of the recent protests was quoted in the Thai press last week (and with censorship everything that is in the Thai press must be approved first) that he has been in consultation with the army over the last six months to determine the exact right time for the coup.

This is the wrong way forward. We have all heard the famous quote (incorrectly attributed to Einstein but no one knows who first said it) “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over yet expecting different results.”

Thailand will never grow if every government is overthrown by the army, as has been the case over the last 80 years. Thailand will only grow when the will of the people is respected.





Stickman's thoughts:

I don't have a strong opinion on what has happened. I agree with you that it will be good when the cycle of coups is broken. At the same time, Bangkok is a whole lot safer now with the military in control and they are doing a good job attacking the rampant and widespread corruption that has long been an issue in this country and which needs to be eradicated if the country is to fulfill its huge potential.