Over the past year I have been working with Dr Marcus Mietzner to co-edit a special issue of the Australian Journal of International Affairs. Our focus is post-coup societies in Southeast Asia and the Pacific, and the more specific emphasis is understanding how processes of re-democratisation compare. The countries discussed include Thailand, Indonesia, Myanmar/Burma, Fiji and Papua New Guinea. The articles range from specific country studies to more general treatments of the conceptual and policy issues at stake.
As Marcus and I write in the introduction:
Military interventions break the rules. They require the mobilisation of men and materiel, alongside a commitment to rapid action and often violence, in the pursuit of an abrupt, illegal political outcome. Speaking generally — though they may be semi-regular events in some countries — coups d’e╠Бtat remain exceptional. Even in countries where such action has been partly normalised, such as Thailand and Fiji, there is still widespread bewilderment when uniformed officers opt to overthrow their own government. Such direct, uncompromising military intervention makes the news. Whether it is the tanks or commando battalions that are used to seize power, the outcome is usually stark: a constitution shredded, media freedoms usurped and old leaders forced onto the ignominious sidelines. In the longer term, the questions that preoccupy analysts of post-coup politics habitually emphasise the prospects for redemocratisation. It is therefore the specific processes of military consolidation and potential for democratic change that are the central concern of this special issue. Why do some countries experience regular coups? Are there generalisable political and economic determinants of coup susceptibility? What encourages the entrenchment of military rule in some countries and what leads others to redemocratise? And what is the future for those countries that are judged ‘coup-prone’?