Washington Post: US govt needs to make clear that Thailand coup is unacceptable
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Washington Post: US govt needs to make clear that Thailand coup is unacceptable

Last month, the Washington Post editorial (December 4, 2013) :

The opposition is still pursuing court cases against the government and may return to the streets. But the only way out of Thailand’s endless turmoil is for both sides to commit themselves to democracy and the rule of law — and for the Democrat Party to channel its discontent into the next election campaign.

Yesterday, another editorial by the Post. Key excerpts:

The opposition, meanwhile, has grown more radical. No longer do its leaders claim, as they once did, to be liberal democrats who seek only to correct Mr. Thaksin’s abuses. Now they aim explicitly at installing a regime that would empower a minority while seeking the “eradication” from politics of Mr. Thaksin and his family.

Opposing such an agenda ought to be an easy call for the United States, which has close economic and security relations with Thailand. But as was the case when Egyptians sought to provoke a coup against their elected government last summer, the Obama administration’s response has been weak. A State Department spokeswoman called Monday for the crisis to be resolved through a “democratic process” and praised the government’s “restraint” in responding to the demonstrators.

The administration has not, however, made clear publicly that a coup — whether by the military or the street mobs — would be unacceptable to the United States or that it would result in a suspension of aid and security cooperation. U.S. law mandates such a cutoff, but since the administration declined to observe the statute following Egypt’s military coup in July, Thailand’s anti-democracy militants may be emboldened to believe that they, too, will be tolerated by the Obama administration. They shouldn’t be. As has been the case in Cairo, the victory of the anti-democracy forces would only lead to more violence and instability.

BP: It also follows a strongly-worded editorial in the New York Times last month. As long as there is not widespread violence, a military coup is unlikely. All signs from Prayuth so far is that he has no interest in directly entangling himself in the mess and taking on all the responsibility which would rest on his shoulders (easy for retired soldiers calling on him to to act when they face no pain if the coup goes badly). With the red shirts becoming more inflamed by the rhetoric of the PDRC protesters, they would then almost certainly respond and protest if there was a coup. Any crackdown on the reds would send them underground and bloodshed could be very widespread. Political science theory on coups shows they are normally staged for factional and military corporate interests. For Prayuth, personal and, one could argue, factional interests are not there. Asia Times Online last October:

In exchange, Prayuth was supposedly guaranteed a prestigious position at the royal Crown Property Bureau upon his retirement next year and the unhindered promotion of his younger brother Lt Gen Preecha Chan-ocha. At this year’s reshuffle, Preecha retained his powerful post as commander of the 3rd Army Region Corps, responsible for security in the country’s northern region. Military insiders expect him to remain in that post until next April’s smaller mid-year reshuffle, at which he will likely be promoted to a full four star general and posted to assistant army commander-in-chief.

BP:  One doubts that military spending can go any higher given the large increase since the coup so military corporate interests are unlikely to be advanced by a coup. The end result is that Prayuth has more to lose than to gain (it would be difficult for a coup to be staged without Prayuth and those close to him and remembering there are still others in the military who are aligned with Thaksin). Unless someone comes up with a better deal for Prayuth – such as a place on a certain council – then it is hard to see how this calculus changes for Prayuth UNLESS there is widespread bloodshed.

Also, the editorial states it is not just a military coup that Washington should oppose.

Also, an editorial in The Australian today. Key excerpt:

An election offers the best way out of the crisis in one of our region’s most important countries, but all the evidence indicates the protesters led by the opposition Democrat party would lose any poll, so they have announced they will not take part in the election called by the Prime Minister for February 2. Instead, they are demanding her democratically elected government step aside and that parliament be replaced by an unelected “people’s council” – something that would be a betrayal of Thailand’s traditions as one of the earliest Asian democracies. Despite the odium that surrounds her government, especially over its attempts to enable her disgraced brother Thaksin Shinawatra to return home, Ms Yingluck is right to reject the ultimatum delivered by the protesters. No properly elected leader could reasonably be expected to do otherwise. The protesters are being disingenuous in expecting Ms Yingluck to meekly cede power.

BP: Indeed.