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September 24, 2006

How To Stage A Coup The Thai Way -- Michael

AP just released an article on new restrictions that the military has placed on political gatherings. But that's not the interesting part. Embedded in the article is some information about how a coup is managed in Thailand:

By DENIS D. GRAY, Associated Press Writer

3 minutes ago

BANGKOK, Thailand - Thailand's new military rulers banned all political gatherings and activities at the local level Sunday, further cementing their powers and pre-empting any opposition following last week's bloodless coup.

. . .

Military leaders last week revived the state National Counter Corruption Commission, appointing its nine members to carry out investigations into state corruption. That commission β€” which will continue its work β€” can only seek to prosecute cases through the courts and cannot seize assets or otherwise enforce it findings. The new panel will have powers of enforcement.

Speculation has been rife in Thailand that the democratically elected Thaksin may have sneaked some of his wealth out of the country just before the coup, but there has been no confirmation of this from the military council.

Airline officials said Sunday that two planes chartered by Thaksin days before the takeover were carrying an unusually large amount of luggage β€” more than 100 cases and trunks. Thaksin was in New York attending the U.N. General Assembly when the coup occurred and is now in London.

I'm guessing the cases and trunks are nothing compared to the wire transfers moving Shinawatra family holdings out of the country.

So, let's say Thaksin was tipped. The question is, who tipped him and why?

My guess -- the military.

Several features of this coup have been noteworthy to the Western press. Let's review:

1. Thaksin was in New York at the time to address the U.N. Foreign observers have been baffled that the military would time the coup to occur at exactly the moment when Thaksin was in the international spotlight.

2. After the fact, it became clear that the coup had the support of the king. If this were known to Thaksin in advance, he would recognize that his position was hopeless.

3. The coup was completely bloodless. Thaksin promptly surrendered and called for national reconciliation. His party, the largest in Thailand and supposedly fervent supporters of Thaksin, has been oddly passive throughout.

4. It is politically imperative that the military make a show of investigating corruption. Of course, we can safely assume that the military brass is no less corrupt than the politicians. It would be embarrassing and politically risky to actually arrest Thaksin.

The solution? Negotiate a deal with the king and the heads of the various military and police branches that greases the skids for Thaksin's exit, find out when he's going to be out of town, give him a friendly but firm heads-up so he can get his assets out of the country (provided he cooperates), and proceed to stage a coup that is relatively painless for everyone.

At least, that's my theory, which is 100% conjecture. If true, however, you've got to give the Thai military credit for having mastered the art of executing a relatively benign seizure of power.

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posted by Ace at 02:17 PM

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