David Glenn, a journalist at The Chronicle of Higher Education, has sent me the link to the transcript of an interview conducted with Duncan McCargo, one of the best known writers on the now defunct Thaksin government. As I noted in an earlier post, last year I reviewed McCargo’s co-authored book on the former Prime Minister. The full text of the Chronicle of Higher Education article is only available to the Chronicle’s subscribers once the temporary link I have been sent expires in a few days time. There is, however, much in the article that will interest New Mandala readers. I have taken a few choice quotations from the transcript and, with any luck, a permanent electronic version will become available soon.

In the interview, McCargo says:

At the moment, there’s this rather unreal sense of relief…

But I think those feelings are a mistake. The analogy for me is, you have this absolutely excruciating toothache, and you’re nowhere near a dentist, and you just find some guy by the side of the road who offers to pull the tooth out with a pair of pliers. So the pain is gone. But a few days later, it occurs to you that there’s a huge hole in your mouth. And you realize that if you’d actually been able to get to a dentist, you could have done some surgery on that. You wouldn’t be left with this irreparable damage.

And that’s what happened after the last coup, in ’91. People thought it was great, for a while. People were talking about how handsome the coup leaders were and how great they looked in their uniforms on TV, and that kind of thing. But after a few months, they realized they had no involvement in the running of the country and the society.

And he continues:

It’s dangerous to make predictions about Thailand because it’s an unpredictable place. And in 2006, it’s been extraordinarily unpredictable.

On the NGO scene, McCargo says:

The NGO’s will have difficulty this time. I mean, they always have difficulty, because they’re always divided among themselves…And they are saying this week that they don’t need to struggle anymore, because their objective was to get Thaksin out. But for me, if you’re an Alliance for Democracy, just getting Thaksin out is only the beginning. Their intimations that they’re about to dissolve themselves seem slightly premature. … One would hope that people who have allegedly been fighting for Thai democracy for two decades would not see what’s happened this week as the final answer.

It’s a very informative interview and provides some insight in to the thinking of one of the world’s most prolific Thailand-watchers. Reflecting on his job as an academic political scientist McCargo says:

Look, I’m an awkward character from the north of England. My job in life is to study things related to Thailand and say things that other people don’t want to say or don’t want to hear. I come out with these irritating, contentious, annoying things. And that’s my job. It would be nice if all of these irritating, contentious, and annoying things I said turned out to be totally untrue.

It’s a nice note on which to end these quotations. Thanks to David for the link.