Soldiers stand guard with unclipped rifles across from Bangkok’s Democracy Monument, built after a 1932 coup brought constitutional monarchy to Thailand, then known as Siam. That was the first of more than 20 that have occurred since that time, though the last coup in 1992 was supposed to be the last since the popular demand for democracy had grown so strong since an uprising in 1973 made them impossible to ignore.
The soldiers gladly allowed us to photograph them. In fact, they’ve been ordered to “keep smiling” and stay friendly as part of the effort to put a positive face on this bloodless coup, which has astonishingly enough been carried out in the name of democracy (a concession that speaks to the high expectations among the public to maintain the democratic institution that has built up over the last 15 years). Still, after four days of ingratiating themselves to the public, including scores of foreign tourists such as myself, the soldiers have started to look a little less than eager to enlighten us on the democratizing power of military force:
Now, don’t get me wrong – the dynamics of this coup d’etat are not as simple as elected government good, military coup bad, as writers for the Washington Post might have you believe. But for me, as someone whose idea of democracy is primarily a) Democrats vs. Republicans, and secondarily b) Mori Faction vs. ex-Tanaka Faction battling to please their bureaucrat overlords, the very likely explanation that Thaksin was planning a coup of his own and that the military’s commitment to democracy far exceeds that of the corrupt Thaksin’s (as indicated by Mango Sauce) is confusing. But what I do know that the political stability since the early 90s was a humongous boon for Thailand, and getting things back on track will be key if Thailand wants to maintain its status as the most developed major nation in SE Asia.
In the meantime, ironic scenes such as the one in the first picture will no doubt abound as long as this junta lasts. At least the Bangkok Post hasn’t lost its loopy sense of humor:
Two kinds of power
Armoured tanks can both destroy buildings and enchant children
People crowd the Royal Plaza to catch a glimpse of the tanks stationed there to keep the peace on orders of the Council for Democratic Reform under Constitutional Monarchy.
A vendor is about to hand a balloon to a young buyer at the Royal Plaza yesterday.