Linking Prem to coup is irrelevant

Linking Prem to coup is irrelevant - The Nation, March 20, 2007

From 2019: Yet another editorial that has vanished from online. It gives further context to the place of Prem in Thaksin's ouster outside of the "opposing Thaksin is opposing democracy" trope of the international media.

BURNING ISSUE

Linking prem to coup is irrelevant

Many people see the anti-coup activists as a reincarnation of Thaksin supporters

Thailand's struggle for power is escalating to a dangerous level and may backfire on society if rival sides decide to expand their fight to involve the Privy Council, seen as the vanguard of the monarchy.

Sunday's march by hundreds of anti-coup protesters to air disparaging views on General Prem Tinsulanonda, president of the Privy Council, does not bode well for democratic rule.

The political predicament is almost beyond repair and the venting of anger at Prem will not make the problem go away. Rather, it is likely to compound the political maladies.

If anti-coup activists want an immediate return of power to the people, do they honestly believe their attacks on Prem could speed the country to a general election quicker? Or are they making snide remarks out of spite? As a public figure, Prem is fair game to face up to public judgement. But to target him for innuendoes linking the country's revered institution to the September 19 coup is totally uncalled-for.

A brief rehash of recent events may help to shed light on the fractious politics plaguing the nation.

Political discontent erupted in 2005 and street protests mushroomed early last year. At the centre of the fiery debate was the authoritarian leadership of Thaksin Shinawatra.

Buoyed by his landslide victory to serve a second term, Thaksin refused to reason with his opponents and chose to flaunt his power instead.

The take-no-prisoner battle led to a deadlock - Thaksin cited his popularity to cling to office while the country's administration ground to a halt because, as caretaker prime minister, he could not move the country forward.

The military intervention happened after it became clear that Thaksin was determined to hold on to power even though he could no longer lead.

In a nutshell, the coup was about the removal of the leader who remained popular but had lost the credibility to rule.

The seizure of power was, and still is, a cardinal sin for democracy. Coup leaders tried to justify their intervention by citing their good intentions to overcome the crisis of leadership.

The junta had no choice but to step in and repair the political system before social divisions spiralled out of control, according to a pro-coup argument.

Should anti-coup activists want to debunk the logic for seizing power, they should focus on the junta. There is no rhyme or reason to raise wild allegations to further complicate the issue.

Soldiers marched out of their barracks and tanks rolled to heave Thaksin out of office. With or without Prem on the sidelines, the military intervention was irreversible. The real issue was about Thaksin - not Prem.

Prem's linkage to the coup, be it a real or invented charge, is irrelevant. The military would not have intervened if Thaksin had embraced the art of compromise, a vital element in a sustainable democracy.

Anti-coup activists might be better off focusing on the path back to democratic rule rather than blaming everyone but themselves for failing to prevent the military intervention.

Their outspokenness against the coup was mute right before and after the power seizure.

Six months have lapsed and they now want to fault Prem for their frustration over the junta.

If Thailand is to overcome its rough patch of fractious politics, rival sides must make concerted efforts to co-exist amid differences. History has shown time and again that political annihilation is not an option.

Anti- and pro-Thaksin campaigners have kept the country hostage for far too long. After the removal of Thaksin, their fight has morphed into anti- and pro-coup bickering.

Last May, Thaksin made a veiled attack against Prem for his predicament, instead of reflecting on his own leadership. Four short months later, democratic rule collapsed.

Now, anti-coup activists, seen by many as a reincarnation of Thaksin supporters, have blamed Prem for the suspension of democracy.

Does this mean vengeful politics has not bottomed out yet?

Avudh Panananda

The Nation

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