By Monireak Keo
September 20, 2006
The military coup in Thailand that took place on September 19, 2006 is not totally disconnected from the events in Cambodia .
As reported by some political analysts, the coup had the tacit support of King Bhumibol. We all know that Thai people, especially those living in Bangkok , are very unhappy with Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra over the sale of his family’s $1.9 billion telecommunication company to Singaporean investors without paying a single baht in taxes. This transaction enraged many Thais. Additionally, Thai people accused the Prime Minister of abusing his power by enriching himself further through corruption, by weakening democratic institutions, and manipulating the country’s court system.
The reform of 1997 Thai constitution had allowed Prime Minister Thaksin to accumulate a great amount of power that is near absolute. However, what finally brought the Prime Minister down was his veiled attack on the revered Thai King. Prime Minister Thaksin was very unpopular in Bangkok but he is still very popular in the countryside because of his policy by subsidizing healthcare and giving cash payouts to poor people. Sensing his strong popularity in the countryside that is almost equal to the King, the Prime Minister got bolder by saying in his June 2006 speech that a “charismatic person” was out to remove him from his Prime Minister position. Furthermore, he went on to say that a mysterious figure that he refused to name was “wielding extraconstitutional force” to push him from office. That speech did not go out unnoticed by King Bhumibol. It angered the king and his chief advisor, General Prem Tinsulanonda. Prime Minister Thaksin had made a major error. One shall not attack, even in an indirect fashion, the king of Thailand .
Seizing on this opportunity, small local businessmen everywhere have petitioned the king to block big foreign investments that are sprouting up all over the country which hurt small Thai businesses. In the meantime, King Bhumibol is also paying close attention to the event that is happening in Cambodia . The king noticed a similarity in style of governance and personality between Prime Minister Thaksin and Prime Minister Hun Sen of Cambodia . He notices that Prime Minister Hun Sen has been denigrating Father-King Sihanouk and abusing the Khmer monarchy any which way he wants. King Bhumibol does not want to see the same thing happens to Thailand . He wants to clamp down on Prime Minister Thaksin while he still can and while he is still alive to preserve the institution of the Thai monarchy. If the king allowed Prime Minister Thaksin’s words go unchallenged, it will escalate into something bigger and harder to stop like the fate of the Khmer monarchy that is becoming the joke of the world.
To remind the Thai Prime Minister who is really in charge of the country, the king’s chief advisor, General Prem, put on his military uniform and toured the army camps across the country and reminded the soldiers that their loyalties rest with the king and not with the Prime Minister. From that day on it is all downhill for the Prime Minister.
Poor Sihanouk! Why can’t he be like King Bhumibol? Now that Thaksin is gone, Hun Sen has all the theaters to himself. However, I do not see Hun Sen being toppled like Thaksin. The only way Hun Sen can be removed is through his own people coming from his own party. All people surrounding Hun Sen are either loyal or scared of Hun Sen or both. Cambodia will be under Hun Sen’s grip for a very long time, unless…