Saturday, August 9, 2014

Premocracy to Taksin

For most of the 1980s, Thailand was ruled by Prime Minister Prem Tinsulanonda, who, thankfully, was a democratically-inclined strongman who restored parliamentary politics to Thailand. I think of him as an intelligent guy in a position of power at the right time and would love to meet him. Anyways, the country remained a democracy from that point on, except for two brief periods of military rule from 1991-1992 and 2006-2007.[1]

(our backyard, south-facing)


(our westside, including clothes line)


By allowing one faction of the military to get rich on government contracts, the beginning 1990s government of Chatichai provoked a rival faction, led by Generals Sunthorn Kongsompong, Suchinda Kraprayoon, and other generals of Class 5 of the Chulachomklao Royal Military Academy to stage a coup in February 1991, charging Chatichai's government as a corrupt regime or 'Buffet Cabinet'. The junta called itself the National Peace Keeping Council. The NPKC brought in a civilian prime minister, Anand Panyarachun, who was still responsible to the military. Anand's anti-corruption and straightforward measures proved popular. Another general election was held in March 1992.

The winning coalition appointed coup leader Suchinda Kraprayoon to become Prime Minister, in effect breaking a promise made earlier to the King and confirming the widespread suspicion that the new government was going to be a military regime in disguise. However, the Thailand of 1992 was not the Siam of 1932. Suchinda’s action brought hundreds of thousands of people out in the largest demonstrations ever seen in Bangkok, led by the former governor of Bangkok, Major-General Chamlong Srimuang.

Suchinda brought military units personally loyal to him into the city and tried to suppress the demonstrations by force, leading to a massacre and riots in the heart of the capital, Bangkok, in which hundreds died. Rumours spread out that there was a rift in the armed forces. Amidst the fear of civil war, King Bhumibol intervened: he summoned Suchinda and Chamlong to a televised audience, and urged them to follow a peaceful solution. This meeting resulted in Suchinda's resignation.

The King re-appointed royalist Anand as interim prime minister until elections could be held in September 1992, which brought the Democrat Party under Chuan Leekpai to power, mainly representing the voters of Bangkok and the south. Chuan was a competent administrator who held power until 1995, when he was defeated at elections by a coalition of conservative and provincial parties led by Banharn Silpa-Archa. Tainted by corruption charges from the very beginning, Banharn’s government was forced to call early elections in 1996, in which General Chavalit Yongchaiyudh's New Aspiration Party managed to gain a narrow victory.

Soon after coming into office, Prime Minister Chavalit was confronted by the Asian Financial Crisis in 1997, just two years before I met Thip. After coming under strong criticism for his handling of the crisis, Chavilit resigned in November 1997 and Chuan returned to power. Chuan came to an agreement with the International Monetary Fund which stabilized the currency and allowed IMF intervention in the Thai economic recovery. In contrast to the country's previous history, the crisis was resolved by civilian rulers under democratic procedures.

During the 2001 election, Chuan’s agreement with IMF and use of injection funds to boost the economy were a cause for great debate. Meantime, businessman-turned-politician Thaksin Shinawatra’s proposals appealed to the mass electorate. Thaksin campaigned effectively against old politics, corruption, organized crime, and drugs. In January 2001 he had a sweeping victory at the polls, winning a larger popular mandate than any Thai prime minister has ever had in a freely elected National Assembly.



[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Thailand_since_1973

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