Dissidence grows against coup

As Thailand’s 18th coup ended its third day, the first cracks against a military solution to a political problem have surfaced. A small group of dissidents gathered to voice their opposition to the junta outside a swanky shopping mall here last Friday evening.

“No to Thaksin, No to coup,” read a protest sign held up by the dissidents, who numbered about 20. “Don’t call it reform. It’s a coup,” said another. Although limited in number, the dissidents, by standing up, are punching a few holes in the glowing picture painted by the mainstream Thai media that the junta has universal support for its power grab on the night of September 19 to rid PM Thaksin Shinawatra from office.

Thanaphol Eiwsakul, no stranger to controversy here when it comes to fighting for political and civil liberties, is among the leading voices daring to challenge the coup’s leaders. “This coup is against democracy; it is against the law,” the 33-year-old editor of Fah Diew Kan, a Thai magazine known for its progressive views, said.

“The announcements on TV supporting the coup are asking us to support something that is illegal. Would you support an act that is against the law?” Sombat Boongnam-among, a prominent activist for minority rights who works in the northern Chiang Rai province, is also standing up to the new political order being imposed in this country through martial law. “They (the coup leaders) are censoring people’s opinion and only one side — their side — is being presented,” he told IPS. “I am not afraid of being arrested. It is my right to express my political opinion openly.”

This spark of opposition to the ruling junta comes as it continues searching for the ideal candidate to take over as PM. Coup leader General Sonthi Boonyaratglin declared shortly after tanks rolled into the Thai capital last Tuesday night to depose the democratically elected Thaksin that he would resign from power in two weeks and hand the reigns of government to an interim premier. Among the names mentioned in the local media to fill the top government job is that of Supachai Panitchpakdi, an internationally respected Thai, who has also served as the head of the WTO.

For Thaksin, who has chosen not to mount a challenge against the junta from where he currently is, in London, the only good news may be the views flowing from Thailand’s provinces.

It was the voters in that part of the country that came out in large numbers to elect his Thai Rak Thai (TRT) party to power at the 2001 and 2005 general elections. Those two massive victories for the TRT enabled Thaksin to become the first PM to complete a full four-year term and to be re-elected for a second successive term since Thailand became a constitutional monarchy in 1932.

“If there is another election, I will look at the policies of each party, but I am quite sure that Thaksin’s policies are the best and I will vote for Thaksin again,” Suwit Saengmaneetham, who owns a pharmacy in the north-eastern province of Sakon Nakhon, said. A fellow resident of the same province was of the same mind.

“Thaksin helped to develop people at the grassroots level better than any other government in the past,” Wisak Kaewsiri, who runs a clothing shop, added. “Thaksin was the best prime minister.” — IPS