Sunday, December 16, 2007

Burma Comparisons

Earlier this year I blogged about an op-ed piece by academic Surachat Bamrungsuk who made Burma comparisons in the aftermath of the coup:
He said the Thai middle class and mass media, who professed to be pro-democracy, must think harder about how democratic their support for the September 19 coup was.

"Today, intellectuals, former leftists and the media are supporting the coup. We're turning the clock back to the time when the belief that the military can solve political problem held sway," said Suchart,
who warned that the cycle of coups would mostly continue.

"The important question is: do Thai intellectuals want democracy or dictatorship?
Those who opposed the military in 1992 are now serving the military."

Suchart said his fellow lecturers were now happy to receive Bt104,000 and serve as members of the National Legislative Assembly.

coup has put Thailand's level of democracy back on par with Burma, he claimed. "Thailand and Burma are now in the same boat - with a junta at the helm," he said.
At the time, I said:
I agree with what he has to say about academics and the middle class supporting the coup, but I disagree with his comparisons about Thailand's level of democracy being on par with Burma. Yes, there are a number of parallels with Burma (ie military taking control for national unity, drafting a new constitution, excluding the elected government from the process, suppressing the media etc) but I would say for all the flaws in Thailand's democracy, its level of democracy greatly exceeds Burma.

Surachart the other day:
Assoc Prof Dr Surachart Bamrungsuk of Chulalongkorn's Political Science Faculty said in a seminar marking Thailand's Constitution Day on Dec 10 at Chulalongkorn University that 2008 will probably be one of the most challenging political periods in our lifetime, maybe harsher than 1992 ['bloody May] if the general elections on Dec 23 do not happen, or there is another coup.

In the event of another coup, according to a leaked confidential document to which the media has not paid as much attention as it did to another leaked document concerning the junta's plan to undermine the People Power Party,
Thailand would resemble Burma back in August 1988 when the Burmese junta ejected the election results. If another coup occurs after the Dec 23 elections, all will be disaster.

Even if the Dec 23 poll happens as scheduled, grim prospects still loom ahead in Thai politics, he said. If the People Power Party wins the elections as predicted in many opinion surveys, will it be dissolved, or will the election results be nullified by 'a certain process', using the excuse of all the problems expected to plague this poll? The country will see a weak democracy, a weak economy and insecurity, but will have a strong military, he said.

COMMENT: The comparisons continue. Hmmmm. Need I remind anyone of this post a few months back:
Soldiers must be allowed to participate in politics, otherwise "the country cannot escape from coups," said Phasit Sonthikhan, who was representing Council for National Security (CNS) deputy secretary-general Saprang Kalayanamitr at a forum on soldiers and democracy yesterday. Gen Phasit, deputy director of the CNS Secretary Office, cited examples of the political roles assumed by the armed forces in Burma and some African countries. He said the military was permitted to play a role in politics to prevent it from staging coups. "It's the way out for their soldiers," he said.

COMMENT: Burma is the model the Thai military want to follow, but I am not sure how much longer they can go at it before people start getting not just upset, but mad. If they try to dissolve PPP on trumped up charges after the election, it is difficult to predict what might happen, but I don't think many people will take it quietly.


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