Clipping nails (wings) in Su-Varna-Bhumi

….replay of
the aftermath of the 2006 coup…military has already prepared its transition…..provisional
constitution drafted by the junta…military will re-install their colleagues in the
Democrat Party — “The Party of the Army”….Somchai Srisuthiyakorn, a member of the Election Commission told European diplomats only “moral” people will be
allowed to win the elections…..

[Ref. Wiki] The signature of King Mongkut (r. 1851 – 1868) reads SPPM (Somdet Phra Poramenthra Maha) Mongkut King of Siam, giving it official status until 23 June 1939 when it was changed to Thailand. Thailand was renamed Siam from 1945 to 11 May 1949, after which it again reverted to Thailand.

Siam has been referred to in Indian texts as Shyam (Shyam means dark, also another name of Krishna) Desh (country). Similarly Burma is Brahma (Desh) and Cambodia is Kamboja (Desh).

Su (good, pure) + Varna (color) = Suvarna (Sanskrit) is Gold (Sona is the apavramsh word in common usage in North India). Bhumi (Sanskrit) is land or country.

In this Golden Land the sights and sounds are ultra-modern (but as they say with a touch of tradition) as the first-time visitor steps out of the Bangkok airport which is named Suvarna-bhumi (what else?).

The state of the society does not seem to be quite so golden…there have been twelve prominent coups since 1932 [ref. Wiki], and close to 30 successful/attempted coups as noted by experts (see Prof Paul Chambers quote below).
1) June 24, 1932: The Khana Ratsadon party overthrows the absolute monarchy of King Prajadhipok.
2) June 20, 1933: Phraya Phahon Phonphayuhasena overthrows Phraya Manopakorn Nititada.
3) November 7, 1947: Phin Choonhavan overthrows Thawal Thamrong Navaswadhi.
4) November 29, 1951: Military overthrows 1949 constitution and reverts to 1932 constitution.
5) September 21, 1957: Sarit Thanarat overthrows Plaek Pibulsongkram
6) October 20, 1958: Self-coup of Sarit Thanarat
7) November 18, 1971: Self-coup of Thanom Kittikachorn
8) October 6, 1976: Sangad Chaloryu overthrows Seni Pramoj
9) October 20, 1977: Kriangsak Chomanan overthrows Tanin Kraivixien
10) February 24, 1991: Sunthorn Kongsompong overthrows Chatichai Choonhavan
11) September 19, 2006: Sonthi Boonyaratglin overthrows Thaksin Shinawatra
12) May 22, 2014: Prayuth Chan-ocha overthrows Niwatthamrong Boonsongpaisan

Referring to Wiki, there are fortunate few countries to experience this many coups. Taking (10) as the (arbitrary) cut-off number we have only (A) Afghanistan, (B) Bolivia, (C) China, (H) Haiti, and…. (S) Switzerland!!!  There is not a single country which can match Thailand’s record with 1932 as the (arbitrary) cut-off date.

In comparison, we have the relatively mild record of Pakistan and Bangladesh in South Asia (most surprisingly Wiki does not refer to the Emergency – self coup – declared by Indira Gandhi 1975-1977, why so?)

1) August 15, 1975: Khondaker Mostaq Ahmad overthrows Sheikh Mujibur Rahman
2) November 3, 1975: Khaled Mosharraf overthrows the government set up by the August coup
3) November 7, 1975: Soldiers from the Bangladesh army overthrew and killed Khaled Mosharraf just a few days after he took power
4) May 30, 1981: Soldiers led by Major General Abul Manzoor assassinate the president Ziaur Rahman.
5) March 24, 1982: Hussain Muhammad Ershad overthrows A. F. M. Ahsanuddin Chowdhury

April 17, 1953 by Ghulam Mohammad against Khawaja Nazimuddin
October 27, 1958 by Field Marshal Ayub Khan against Iskander Mirza
March 25, 1969 by General Yahya Khan against Ayub Khan
July 4, 1977 by General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq against Zulfikar Ali Bhutto
Failed coup against Benazir Bhutto in 1995
October 12, 1999 by General Pervez Musharraf against Nawaz Sharif

Of course it must be also true that TRUTH lies in the eyes of the beholder (and the information minder). The current coup was actually not a coup…as decided by the military. Even better, they changed their mind a few days later!!! Nevertheless, something is deeply wrong in the land of Buddha and full of wise, sweet people (this is meant sincerely).

To us outsiders, the whole exercise represents a form of clipping….nails or wings….depending on your point of view. If the people power gets to be too vociferous or if they dare make unsuitable demands or if the leadership is not “moral” enough, then the military will step in again and again and wield its magic clippers. It is just as brutal as any other military dictatorship but of late an effort has been made to put lipstick on the pig (aka charm offensive).

Indo-China is following the Chinese path of prosperity…no doubt about that. One prominent exception, and a very admirable one is Indonesia which just rejected a military stooge and elected a man of the masses. Congratulations!!!

This post was originally published on Tuesday, after the Thai
military first announced martial law, under the title “Thailand’s army
says this definitely isn’t a coup. Here are 11 times it definitely was.”
Given the news that on Thursday, the Thai military publicly declared a coup, we have decided to republish it.

On Tuesday, Thailand’s military announced that the country was under martial law, and the government was reportedly not informed beforehand. Armed troops entered private television stations in Bangkok and surrounded the national police headquarters.

So, is this a coup? Not at all, a military spokesperson told the Associated Press. “This is definitely not a coup,” an army official said.

can forgive people for some skepticism, though, given Thailand’s modern
history. Since the Siamese revolution of 1932, which overthrew the
absolute monarchy of King Prajadhipok, Thailand has had a truly
exceptionally large number of coups.  

Paul Chambers, a professor at
Chiang Mai University’s Institute for South-East Asian Affairs, says
there have been almost 30 coup attempts (whether successful or
unsuccessful) since 1912.

“What sets this event off from previous
coups is an attempt to make it appear much more under the law,”
Chambers wrote in an e-mail to The Post. “But this is only a superficial
bit of semantics.”


In recent weeks, the
military junta in Thailand has been working hard on rehabilitating its
image. A battalion of soft-spoken diplomats has been dispatched on an
international charm offensive, lecturing policymakers and journalists on
their good intentions and popular support. Just don’t ask them to prove
it in an election.

Their efforts are aimed at promoting a distorted understanding of
events — an exercise that the United States and Europe seem all too
willing to accept. They want the world to believe that the May 22, 2014,
military coup is somehow a “normal” feature of Thailand’s political
culture, and as such, the junta should get a free pass.

If things continue along this path, we are due to have a replay of
the aftermath of the 2006 coup. At the time, Western governments
eventually gave their support to the military’s plan to introduce a new
constitution that severely watered down representation and allowed them
to keep appointees permanently entrenched in the Constitutional Court
and Senate. It’s little wonder why the situation has culminated in
violence and repression once again several years later, and undoubtedly
what will happen if they remain unchallenged in 2014.

The military has already prepared its transition. A provisional
constitution drafted by the junta will be introduced containing less
than 50 sections. A cabinet will be formed in September as well as a
250-member “reform council,” all filled with people exclusively
handpicked by the coup, which will then be followed by an election where
the military will be able to re-install their colleagues in the
Democrat Party — otherwise known as “The Party of the Army.”

Somchai Srisuthiyakorn, a member of the Election Commission, has
already chillingly told European diplomats only “moral” people will be
allowed to win the elections.

The recent revelation that planning for this coup began four years
ago, with close coordination between the accused murderer former Deputy
Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban (and former Democrat Party member) and
General Prayuth Chan-ocha, should raise major red flags. This coup
wasn’t a last resort or necessity to solve political deadlock — it was a
premeditated, calculated agenda to steal control of the instruments of
power and demolish a popularly elected government.

What must be understood about Thailand’s seemingly endless cycle of
coups and repression is that this is not necessarily a political
struggle, but a struggle against history. There is an unstoppable and
growing political awakening taking place that is crashing up against
traditional elites who view their fellow citizens as feudal serfs.

Since 1932, Thailand has never seen a period of true political
stability due to this struggle. In her excellent book “Revolution
Interrupted,” the academic Tyrell Haberkorn describes Thailand’s history
as occasional periods of silence punctuated by violent cycles of coups
and repression. The protagonists may change, but the role of the Thai
Army is always the same.

Today we are in a silent period, where opposition to the coup has
been frozen through threats, intimidation, interrogations and show
trials. There are credible rumors of atrocities taking place far from
the public eye, while right in the center of Bangkok people have
reportedly been arrested for reading Orwell, holding sandwiches and carrying signs with slogans such as “Long live USA.” 

Such wildly repressive behavior is what we have come to expect from
the people who brought us the 1976 Thammasat University massacre and the
2010 Bangkok massacre. These acts of unaccountable violence and
repression by the military are likely to continue, as no member of the
Army has ever suffered a loss of “prestige” for toppling an elected
government or ordering troops to fire upon protesters.

How we react to the Thai coup matters. As the Australian academic
Nicholas Farrelly has argued, the actions of the U.S. government in
response to Thailand’s past coups has guaranteed “any stigma associated
with military government never overwhelmed international acceptance.”

It’s time for a new approach. The junta’s transition plan must be
rejected and understood for what it is: a blatant attempt by one
minority to dominate the majority. The soldiers must be told to return
to the barracks and stay there. The U.S. government as well as the
European Union must demand an immediate handover to an independent
civilian administration that is capable of overseeing free and fair
elections, leading to a new constitution by the people through elected
representatives, not coup-appointed figures.

Most important, targeted sanctions must be immediately applied
against members of the Thai army to restrict their travel privileges and
freeze their bank accounts, as well as those of the businesses and
corporations that sponsored the overthrow of the government. These
individuals committed a grave crime, and it is time they be treated as

The reason why we no longer see regular military coups in places like
Africa and Latin America is because it has become internationally
unacceptable. There’s no reason to expect any less from Thailand,
especially given the tide of history.

Robert Amsterdam serves as international counsel to the Organization of Free Thais for Human Rights and Democracy. He is a Canadian international lawyer and founding partner with Dean Peroff of the law firm Amsterdam & Peroff, with offices in Toronto, Washington and London. Amsterdam was born in 1956 in White Plains, New York, and moved to Ottawa, Canada at a young age where he grew up as a Canadian citizen. Amsterdam was awarded a B.A. from Carleton University (Ottawa, Canada) in 1975 and a LL.B. from Queen’s University (Kingston, Canada) in 1978. Amsterdam is currently based in London, United Kingdom.




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