While reading about the Thai Junta crack down of the media just after the coup d’état on September 19th 2006 on Wikipedia I tried to follow to links from the article. The first was to the website of www.19sep.org – an official protest site to the putsch and then to www.Thaksin.com. The first site was no longer up. It was just a holding page like you see for sites due to be auctioned – all original content removed. The second lead me to a burgundy page telling me my computer was being attacked and that I might want to get the hell out of there quick. I did.
I did some quick research. The Thaksin.com really was a nasty virus that my firewall blocked. The cached copy of the site said ‘hotels in Thailand’ on a black screen and then proceeded to try and burrow its way into my computer. For the 19sep.org there was no cache available. This is odd because old copies of sites that stop paying their dues normally knock around as ghosts in the machine for months if not years after their official demise. It didn’t take me long to find out why. The site was obviously hosted in Thailand and was completely shut down by the Council of Democratic Reform (the moniker the interim junta in Thailand chose to be called).
For any interested in what happened to the people’s protest to the coup d’état in 2006 the organization has set up under a new URL – http://www.workersliberty.org/node/7060. It is a site that makes for interesting reading – far more direct, impassioned and less balanced than the Wiki entry but far more relevant in pointing out just how many times this has happened to the Thai people.
“Between 1957 and 1973 Thailand had an uninterrupted period of military rule…On the 14 October 1973, a mass popular uprising, led by students, but significantly involving urban workers, overthrew the military dictatorship. On 6 October 1976 civil rights were crushed by a military coup…By 1988 Thailand had a full parliamentary democracy once again. In 1991, the army made a last ditch attempt to maintain significant political influence by staging a coup against a corrupt, but democratically elected government. In May 1992, the military was overthrown, by another uprising in Bangkok. May 1992 resulted in the restoration of parliamentary democracy and the eventual reform of the political system.”
The thing to note was how the 19 September, 2006 coup was the first takeover by the military in the age of the internet. This was no problem internally because only 12% of Thailand is online, but it was potentially embarrassing for foreign relations. For the first few days the military regime was slow to shut down servers of sites critical to the coup. During that time a lot of information was available on the internet. Now it seems that although democracy has been restored to Thailand under The Democrat Party (the yellow shirts) the military are still keen to crack down on sites that point the finger at the military when analyzing what went on in 2006.
At the time of the coup it was a shame that the foreign press didn’t do more to give Thaksin Shinawatra more support as a democratically elected head of state that was ousted while visiting his daughter who was studying in London. Perhaps the fact that Thaksin was responsible for the foreign takeover of Thailand’s biggest telecommunications company Shin Corp. and then didn’t pay any tax on the profits for his sales of the shares did nothing to endear him with the liberal media. Still it is disgraceful that the inept and heavy handed Thai military were able to so easily squash democracy in Thailand without much international condemnation (http://www.greenleft.org.au/node/3754).
One wonders what the King was doing during all these violent changes of power, one also wonders why he is so revered. There is a common rumor going around Thailand that he was subject to death threats. His father Ananda Mahidol was found shot to death in the Royal Palace on June 9th 1946. In November 1947 the military again staged a coup to bring the King’s assassins to justice. The court case was an obvious stitch up (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ananda_Mahidol) as the newly self-appointed (and unelected) government wanted to find quick scapegoats.
This might explain why the incumbent King, Bhumibol Adulyadej has near universal approval in Thailand. Maybe it is not his connivance that was behind September 19th. The Yellow Shirts may claim allegiance to the monarchy, but it was the interests of the military and urban elite of Bangkok that they helped with their protests. Their famous sit-in at Bangkok airport that lead to the fall of the democratically elected People’s Power Party of 2007 (Thaksin’s banned Thai Rak Thai party under a new name) was in the interests of the military more than the monarchy. After all to stage a coup to get rid of a party and then have that party win the next election was a waste of time from the military’s point of view.
The King is just smart enough to not get in the way of the Thai army. It is a lesson that he learnt the hard way.
What I am saying is that the issue of the Red Shirts (Thaksin supporters) and the Yellow Shirts (Royalists) was and still is a smokescreen. The King remains silent. The military wanted to remove Thaksin whose populist policies were eroding their own power base. It was possible that if the military hadn’t staged a coup than Thaksin might have done. If Thaksin had gained not only the support of the rural poor of the north and had been able to place his yes men in the top military posts he would have greatly upset the balance of power in Thailand. The military are not the only power in Thailand – they share it with the government, the King and business interests. Thaksin gave the green light to his demise by openly profiting from selling Shin Corp. It was pure greed on his part and gave enough moral outrage to the Yellow Shirt movement to legitimize the 2006 coup d’état and the 2007 transference of power.
The military in Thailand do not have an ideological agenda. They do however run a number of highly profitable legal and illegal enterprises. The top jobs in the military are rotated to give each member of the elite military coterie their time at the feeding trough. The main purpose of the military is to maintain their privileged position in Thailand. Thaksin sought to disrupt this position and very much authored his own downfall. The history of Thailand has shown that the military cannot keep hold of power in the form of dictatorship (like in Burma) indefinitely. But what the military in Thailand do possess is the means of coercion (http://links.org.au/node/1883):
The military has a monopoly on the means of violent coercion and it has been prepared to gun down unarmed protesters in the streets. The last example was in April and May 2010 when more than 90 people died.
Despite the restoration of the parliamentary process in Thailand (with the junta’s favored party in charge and a new constitution that absolves them of all wrong doing) the military continue to use coercion; and in my case using viruses against my computer. The fact that Wikipedia links to these viral sites shows the reach of the military and the old adage that you cannot trust any authority all the time.