Egypt and Thailand: How is the ‘good coup’ going?
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Egypt and Thailand: How is the ‘good coup’ going?

After the coup in Thailand in September 2006, there was frequent mention that it was a “good” coup  – see hereherehere, and here, and we saw similar mention by a number of people after the coup in Egypt last month as blogged about here. Yes, there are differences as noted in that post:

There are a number of other points of comparison and contrast in the article particularly on the courts…. For BP, the big differences between Thailand and Egypt are (1) the severe economic problems in Egypt under Morsi (whatever you say about Thaksin, the economy was doing well in 2006, and we had a few years of budget surpluses/very minor deficits), (2) the geo-political impact on the coup in Egypt on Islamists participating in democracy, and (3) and the Egyptian protest numbers dwarfed those in Thailand by some magnitude which (relevant to the position of who would have won a new election as Thaksin would still have won, but am not so sure Morsi would have won again)

Ian Buruma in the Globe and Mail a few days ago:

Egypt and Thailand have little in common, except for one thing. In both countries, at different times, educated people who pride themselves on being democrats have ended up applauding military coups against elected governments. They had resisted oppressive military regimes for many years. But, in Thailand in 2006, as in Egypt last month, they were happy to see their political leaders ousted by force.

None of this is either democratic or liberal. And yet many Egyptians, including some human-rights activists, have endorsed it.

One man, who was savagely stomped by a member of the armed forces in Tahrir Square in 2011, now claims that the Egyptian people should “stand together” with the military, and that all Muslim Brotherhood leaders should be arrested. A prominent democracy activist, Esraa Abdel Fattah, has denounced Mr. Morsi’s party as a gang of foreign-backed terrorists.

The army leadership is saying the same thing: Special measures, maximum force, and revived security units are all necessary to “fight terrorism.”

Some foreign commentators have been as deluded as Egyptians who back the coup.

BP:  Since then the violence in Egypt has dramatically increased. It took much longer in Thailand for things to boil over and the numbers who died were significantly fewer, but some of the scenes in Egypt sound similar to Thailand.

New York Times on the military crackdown:

The attack began about 7 a.m. when a circle of police officers began firing tear gas at the protest camps …

Egyptian state news media played down the violence, reporting that the police were clearing the camps “in a highly civilized way.” In a televised address, Mohamed Ibrahim, interior minister under Mr. Morsi and now under the new government, said his forces “insisted on maintaining the highest degrees of self-restraint.

But in a televised statement, Hazem el-Beblawi, the interim prime minister and a Western-trained economist who had been considered a liberal, cited the Islamists’ supposed stockpiling of weapons and ammunition to argue that the use of force was justified to protect the rights of other citizens.

“Things were spiraling out of control, and we decided to take a firm stance,” he said.


In an e-mail to TIME, Major General Mohamed Elkeshky — a longtime Egyptian military attaché in Washington and a member of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces — argued the necessity of the raids, saying the Brotherhood protest sites had become a threat to national unity and a dangerous nuisance for area residents. “The sit-in has infringed the rights of all residence[sic] of the area, and has been building walls, accumulating weapons, using children and women as human shields, affecting extremely negatively the hygienic situation in the area and negatively affecting the life of the residence[sic],” Elkeshky wrote. “The Egyptian security forces continue to maintain self-control and respect of human rights, in its efforts to maintain peace and security in Egypt.”


There, tens of thousands of Brotherhood supporters have been entrenched for more than six weeks …

The Rabaa site is heavily fortified — albeit with makeshift barricades that couldn’t withstand an armored assault. Protesters there managed to keep their numbers robust …

All through the day on Wednesday, security forces laid siege to the Rabaa site. Witnesses on the scene reported heavy use of live ammunition; journalists attempting to approach the sit-in area have been fired upon, with at least two journalists confirmed killed.


In a glimpse of what may be in store for the most populous Arab state, dozens of revenge attacks and clashes spilled over into a second day Thursday in Cairo and other cities — showing the capability of Islamists to strike and laying bare the depth of their anger over Morsi’s ouster and the crackdown that left hundreds dead.

Angry young men attacked government and security buildings, setting some ablaze, cut off roads, damaged or torched dozens of churches and stormed more than 20 police stations.

State-run TV and newspapers, meanwhile, are filled with commentators and other content full of anti-Brotherhood sentiment, often portraying Islamists as enemies of the people and tapping into nationalistic fervor by alleging that the Brotherhood is a violent group that is secretly enlisting foreign help against the rest of Egyptians and that views Egypt as just a part in a greater Muslim nation that transcends borders.

BP: Demonizing protesters, military crackdown resulting in many unarmed people being shot by the authorities but which the authorities state is justified and necessary (although again the Egyptian authorities are much more brutal), and the response by protesters of burning buildings. Exactly what transpired is contested by both sides – as in Thailand* –

The military is good at  killing people – and the Egyptian military has form, even post-Mubarak, of killing protesters – but are incompetent at governing. Now, people may say politicians are not much better, but politicians can be removed from office by an election. Old soldiers just stay around….

h/t to a reader for one of the links.

*The Economist has a great take on the contested facts in Egypt. Key excerpt:

As massive sit-ins in the capital by supporters of the fallen president, Muhammad Morsi, enter their seventh week, polarisation between them and the non-Islamist factions now in power has produced starkly opposed narratives. To much of Egypt’s “liberal” press (read: media owned by the state or by pro-army tycoons), the protesters are a mix of terrorists, armed thugs and paid dupes of Mr Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood. The campers-out in two Cairo districts instead see themselves as heroes and martyrs in a modern-day Islamic epic, seeking to return Egypt to the rightful path. Their opponents are Zionist agents, Christian fanatics and fascist holdovers from the era of Hosni Mubarak, the tyrant toppled in the first phase of revolutionary turmoil, in February 2011.

Mr Morsi’s opponents point to footage showing Islamists wielding primitive firearms in clashes with the police to paint the protests as a dangerous and heavily-armed insurrection. Yet while security officials have denied that government forces also used guns, the sad truth is that some nine tenths of the 160 people killed since the July 3rd coup have been Islamists, often felled by high-velocity shots to the head and chest.

BP: Sound familiar?

Also, New York Times on coup supporters views of the international media:

Mike Giglio, a reporter for Newsweek and The Daily Beast in Cairo…

“I think a big part of this is the product of the rabid information wars going on right now: Western journalists, and America in general, are being portrayed as enemies — by politicians, by anti-Morsi activists and in the state and private media,” Mr. Giglio said, referring to the ousted leader Mohamed Morsi. “People are being told not to trust the international press, because what it’s reporting doesn’t always fit with the government’s media narrative, and that narrative is extremely important to them right now. I think this is fueling intense paranoia and anger toward the international media in Egypt, and I think I saw an effect of that today, whatever else may have also been at play.”

BP: Sounds familiar as well.