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Thailand: Democracy Removed by Military Coup

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By John E. Carey
September 27, 2006

On Tuesday, September 19, 2006, a military coup removed one of the world's democratically elected governments from the map. While Thailand's Prime Minister was in New York at the United Nations, his job was taken away. A Muslim general took over.

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What is really striking about this is that the United States and the United Kingdom, the two staunchest allies in the war against terror remained almost silent. Neither the President of the United States nor Tony Blair have said a word about the coup.

Even though President Bush has said over and over that spreading democracy is part of his doctrine, and that "democracies don't attack other democracies," he seemed to give the Thai military a "pass" on this.

Tony Snow, the White House Press Spokesman, at first said, "we're disappointed at the coup." A few days later, Snow said, the United States is "committed to democracy and in now ay do we countenance military coups."

By September 26, Secretary of State was on the record with a well thought out response to the Thailand coup.

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In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, she said, "It's not a good thing and we are terribly displeased to have had a military coup."

"They need to get a civilian government and they need to get to elections and get back on a democratic path very, very quickly," said Secretary Rice.

"But I don't think it will have -- at least we don't see -- an impact on the rest of the region," Rice added.

This was the 18th coup in Thailand since it became a constitutional democracy in 1932.

The military government announced Monday that it would name a new prime minister by early next week and would soon approve a long-delayed government budget. But new elections are a far-off prospect, the government said, 12 months or more in the future sources told us.

Clearly, the situation is complicated. The former Prime Minister of Thailand, Thaksin Shinawatra, was democratically elected twice. A billionaire, he was known for corruption in government. In fact, critics charged that his universal health care program, food subsidies to the poor and care for the elderly and others were crass ways to buy votes. The opposition sat out the last election in protest.

He and his family were also accused of fraudulently enriching itself by selling his telecommunications empire for $1.9 Billion.

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Shinawatra was also unable to stop a Muslim insurgency that was taking a mounting toll in lives in their terror campaign.

The Prime Minister may have been complicit in a system of death squads that rampaged in the south, causing "disappearing" human rights advocates. More than 1,200 people have died in the last two years in the southern region of Thailand.

When Thailand's monarch, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, criticized Thaksin in a speech last December, that probably signaled the death knell of the Taksin government.

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John E. Carey is the former president of International Defense Consultants, Inc.

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