In truth, the coup is a medium-term disaster for Thailand. It reinstates the coup as a tool of political crisis management. It relegates democracy to being just another implement to be wielded by people who claim a superior mandate. It makes democracy a matter of the convenience of the rulers, rather than an inviolable principle and the sole source of political legitimacy.
The full risk for Thailand will only be clear once the king, now 78, has departed the scene and been replaced by an heir with little respect or credibility. Who then will decide when and whether democracy will be allowed to operate?
The Thai coup makes us wonder whether democracy is safe even in some countries where we thought it was a settled matter. This gives comfort and hope to tyrants everywhere, and nowhere more than in China.
The sunny disposition of the Thai people cannot conceal the fact that the day of the Thai coup is an unambiguously dark one.
Hartcher’s forboding analysis should give everybody cause to reflect on the events of the past few days. He is asking a series of questions that are deeper than a Thai-centric gaze allows. The questions are about the region, its traditional institutions and the very fabric of political life. In that wider perspective, his conclusions are thought-provoking indeed.я┐╜