Round-up of op-eds and editorials on the Thai coup
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Round-up of op-eds and editorials on the Thai coup

BP has blogged on editorials from the NYT, FT, and WSJ, but below are some excerpts from op-eds and editorials from other papers that have found through Google News.

The Guardian in an editorial entitled “Thailand: waiting for democracy”

That left the less than impartial army, whose sympathies lie with the establishment and which had intervened against Thaksin before, in 2006. It now has not much time to demonstrate its credentials as a referee. Thai coups in the past have usually been accepted with a shrug and a smile, but Thaksin’s supporters have signalled repeatedly that they will not take a coup lying down. There could be dangerous days ahead.

The Age in an editorial entitled “Coups are not a happy solution”:

Keeping the peace in Thailand should not involve shutting down legitimate criticism. The country was in a political crisis, but it was not verging close to civil war. In the absence of genuine threats to overthrow the government, the actions of the Thai military in seizing control appear precipitous.

It is not at all clear what General Prayuth believes he can achieve with this coup. Denying power to Ms Yingluck’s Puea Thai Party may appease Bangkok’s political elites and pro-royalists but denying a nation its democratic choice is something else again. We hope that a new constitution is framed as soon as possible and that free elections are held at the earliest opportunity.

New Zealand Herald editorial entitled “Military must live with democracy”:

This junta, however, will find it more difficult to impose its will than its predecessors. The clear majority of Thais may tolerate its rule for a short period in the interests of stability. That is certainly vital for the country’s important tourism industry.

But at some point, popular democracy must triumph, and the army must finally recognise that it cannot simply dismiss any government not to its absolute liking.

The Japan Times in an editorial entitled “A coup by any other name”:

Ultimately the answer lies in Thailand’s political class. They must acknowledge the changes that have taken place in their country. Longtime elites must be prepared to share power with the poor and the rural Thais who have long provided the sweat equity of Thailand’s economic successes while enjoying a disproportionately small share of the rewards.

The Shinawatras must compromise, too. They — like the opposition — must renounce the zero-sum politics that they have practiced to perfection and work with long-standing power holders to forge a process that apportions power and wealth to all Thais more fairly.

If this coup jump-starts that process, then some good may come of last week’s “reluctant intervention.” If not, the violence will only intensify over time.

Indian Express in an editorial entitled “It’s a coup”

Though the military has succeeded in restoring order to the streets, at least in the near term, the general’s decision to suspend talks between various political factions to restore electoral democracy suggests an impatience with the arduous process of political accommodation and negotiation. It may also indicate an elite willing to deploy the military for its own ends, to grab power from an elected government it dislikes. The risks to Thailand’s struggling democracy continue to mount.

New Straits Times in an editorial entitled “Restoring civilian rule”:

For, the cause of Thailand’s problem is structural, not something easily rectified by conventional institutions of representative democracy, no matter what system is adopted. Neither first-past-the-post nor proportional representation can work to produce a result amenable to the elitist opposition Democrat Party, the force behind the recent demonstrations against Yingluck. Demanding reforms to detach the hold of the Shinawatra family from its political base, which has consistently returned the Pheu Thai Party to power for over a decade now, the Democrats are themselves bereft of a democratic solution. With no obvious democratic way around the conundrum, General Prayuth Chan-ocha faces an intractable dilemma: military rule or back to barracks. In short, he is damned if he does and the country is damned if he does not. Whither then the politics of this, an anchor nation of Asean? The military can return law and order to the land, but can it find a lasting democratic solution? As the 2006 coup against Thaksin suggested, more of the same will not work. And so, an acceptable formula is sorely needed for the sake of, especially, Thailand and, more generally, its Asean partners.

Jakarta Globe in an editorial “Latest Thai Coup an Attack on Democracy”. Key excerpts:

General Prayuth Chan-Ocha, the leader of the coup, justified his actions by citing a 1914 law that he said gave the military the right to restore order by overthrowing the government. Many believe the coup is necessary to solve conflict between the two camps, and that it’s acceptable because just like in the past the military ultimately will return power to the civilians.

However, we believe a coup is a coup. It’s against all democratic values and has damaged Thailand’s democratic process.

Nothing is fine with a coup because it will have a real impact on Thailand’s economic, social and political progress over the years and it will not solve the present political impasse.

CSM in an editorial entitled “Why Thailand’s coup must be its last”. Key excerpts:

Yet this coup should be treated differently from past ones for this reason: With so many Asian nations having adopted democracy or in the midst of improving one, the region cannot afford to let one of its pivotal economies slip behind in basic freedoms. Thailand is long overdue in embracing the concept of citizenship for all in its electoral politics.

Thailand should be made aware by its friends that this cycle of coups and elections must end. All Thais deserve to be treated as citizens – and to act as citizens.

William Pesek in an op-ed for Bloomberg entitled “Thailand’s Generals Endanger Economy”:

The junta is dangerously mistaken if it thinks it can run a complex and unbalanced $366 billion economy and placate foreign investors while rounding up professors and banning TV stations in the age of the Internet, smartphones and high-frequency trading. Investors who provide capital and multinational companies that create jobs in Thailand don’t want to see shows of strength — they want certainty. If they think Thailand will remain a stable and prosperous place, they will stay. Instead the junta is giving foreign businesses all too many incentives to look elsewhere.

W. Scott Thompson of Tufts University and long-time commentator on Southeast Asia in an op-ed for the LA Times:

To justify opposition to the coup requires support for Thaksin, a man who would brook no opposition, not even from the palace, and who would rule with an iron hand as long as he — or those he chooses to succeed him — lives.

Personally, my surprise is that the general has waited this long. He has played his hand carefully, declaring a neutral martial law one day and taking power in the next. The army has not produced a general of such widely regarded competence in half a century.

To choose the Thaksin regime is to guarantee the death of democracy for Thailand’s foreseeable future. To support the army, may, just may, be the only way to restore it. It has been a general historical truth that regimes bringing order at least make a democratic transition possible. The converse is seldom true. Permissive regimes tend to lead to crackdowns that doom enlightened rule.

BP: We do have a coup supporter….

Finally, an op-ed in the The Portland Press Herald. Now, before you say, what paper? The relevance is not the paper but the author of the op-ed. The author is Barney Frank, who was a 16-term congressman who retired in 2013 (1981-2013). He was an influential lawmaker particularly on financial matters. The title of his long op-ed is “It’s time to stand up to Thai regime”. Some excerpts:

We should impose the toughest nonmilitary sanctions.

I have long been skeptical of the claim by many who push for more American intervention in the affairs of other nations that they are driven largely by the impulse to defend basic democratic values.

The terrible situation in Thailand gives them a chance to prove me wrong. There is no situation in the world today where basic democratic values are more explicitly violated than in that unfortunate country. Earlier in this century, Thaksin Shinwatra led his party to victory in a free election.

Once again a comparison comes to mind: At this point the denial of the basic rights of the Thai people to govern themselves far exceeds the damage that has been done to the people of Ukraine, as much as I deplore that, and it is striking that those American political and intellectual leaders who have been critical of the president for not doing more to punish Putin have said little or nothing about the moral imperative to act against the explicitly anti-democratic Thai regime.

People seeking to establish their credentials as defenders of democracy must put the case of Thailand very high on their agendas.

BP: He is clearly not a fan of the coup….

Unsurprisingly, the overwhelming majority are not supporters of the coup. It is going to be next to impossible to convince the international community that the coup was justified and necessary…