Debate about Thailand’s May 2014 coup show no sign of letting up. With the junta continuing to strangle dissent inside the country, a familiar pattern of vigorous discussion has emerged. There are those who say that things aren’t too bad, and plenty of others weighing in to point out the flaws in that perspective. As Tyrell Haberkorn explains, there are a number of worrying trends.
Given the uncertainty and ambiguity that swirls it is important to consider what we can learn from all of these different analyses, even those with which we might disagree.
At this stage it seems clear that the coup doesn’t end anything. It is just the start. And, as ever, none of us know what will happen next, particularly in the shadowy terrain where big money, military power and royal prestige meet. For now, the re-configuration of Thai politics and society after the coup doesn’t appear to have made the country any stronger. Some of the efforts by the junta, particularly their crackdowns on mild and irreverent forms of public protest, make them look weaker in the eyes of the world.
Last week in one modest effort to to grips with what is happening in Thailand the Australian National University’s College of Asia and the Pacific hosted a public event on the coup. The speakers were Craig Reynolds, Tyrell Haberkorn, Sarah Bishop and I. A podcast of the presentations is available here. And, no, we didn’t serve a sandwich lunch.
More generally, in the hope of putting Thailand’s current issues in a relevant regional context I have also written an essay, available in PDF here, that points to the “lessons” we might want to learn. A shorter version of the same piece is available here.
There is much more to say on all of these topics. We are yet to hear the final word on how coups fit into the Thai scheme of politics and culture. The vibrant discussions here at New Mandala offer a chance for people all over the world, and especially in Thailand, to keep informed and to share their views.
As a home for anecdote, analysis and new perspectives, we hope you continue to find this forum useful.