IN OTHER WORDS : Thai coup

Political troubles should be solved by politicians,” the chief of Thailand’s army wisely declared last March. “Military coups are a thing of the past.” Regrettably, Gen. Sondhi Boonyaratkalin changed his mind on Tuesday, launching a coup against Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra who was in New York, preparing to address the UN.

Thaksin, in power since 2001, has been a high-handed and controversial leader. Corruption charges swirl around his government and his multibillion-dollar family business empire. He has tried to muzzle press critics. And his inflammatory mishandling of a Muslim separatist campaign in the south has killed more than 1,000 civilians.

But removing him from office is a decision that belongs to Thailand’s voters. They would have had a chance to make that decision soon. Thaksin won decisive electoral victories in 2001 and 2005. Balloting earlier this year was boycotted by the opposition and later declared invalid by the courts. Arrangements for a new vote were being worked out when the army intervened.

Military power grabs have punctuated Thailand’s recent history, and none have left the country better off. The best thing General Son-dhi could do now is recall his wise words of six months ago and return power to the constitutional civilian leadership. — The New York Times