A lot has happened since the coup against Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra on 19 September 2006.
Since then millions of words have been welded into shape in the hope of explaining Thailand’s history of stop-start dictatorship. Hundreds of talented and courageous people have contributed to this effort.
Special acknowledgement should be made of work by the likes of Pavin Chachavalpongpun, Tyrell Haberkorn, Duncan McCargo, Somsak Jeeamteerasakul, Nick Nostitz, Ji Ungpakorn, David Streckfuss, Chiranuch Premchaiporn, Joshua Kurlantzick, Charnvit Kasetsiri, Craig Reynolds, “Bangkok Pundit”, Federico Ferrara, Des Ball, Thongchai Winichakul, Chris Baker, Kevin Hewison, Khemthong Tonsakulrungruang, Michael Montesano, “PPT”, Patrick Jory, Thorn Pitidol, Michael Nelson, Pasuk Phongpaichit, Andrew MacGregor Marshall, Pravit Rojanaphruk, Michael Connors, Thitinan Pongsudhirak, and so many others.
There is much disagreement among such a distinguished cohort, yet, from my vantage, everyone plays their own important part in telling this fiendishly complex story. The grand symphony of explanation eventually finds concordance.
Sadly, for all this valuable academic and analytical attention, there’s every chance that next year’s 10th anniversary of the 2006 coup will be marked under the leadership of General Prayuth Chan-ocha. By his own account, he’s prepared to settle in for the long haul.
Given the current circumstances for Thailand’s democratic voices — too many of whom are on-the-run, locked up or cowed into silence — it is important to recognise the trauma of these past 9 years. Much has been lost along the way.
It is also good to reconsider what we wrote back right at the beginning, in the week of the 2006 coup. For those keen to take a wander down memory lane there is plenty of early New Mandala coverage of military rule: pieces like this one by me, and this one by Andrew Walker.
What next? Another decade of topsy-turvy political competition? The final strangulation of dissent? More violence? The long feared civil war? Something worse?
Since the 2006 coup one of the biggest changes has been critical discussion of the political role of Thailand’s royals. Over the past 9 years, their entanglement in anti-democratic politics has received a great deal of scrutiny.
In light of that scrutiny, there seems to be more gloom ahead for a country whose battered democratic institutions have proved no match for royalist and military might.
Nicholas Farrelly is a co-founder of New Mandala, a website launched on 16 June 2006.