Tongue-Thai’ed! Part XIII: A coup (de main) for national unity

Originally published at Siam Voices on April 24, 2012

“Tongue-Thai’ed!” encapsulates the most baffling, amusing, confusing, outrageous and appalling quotes from Thai politicians and other public figures – in short: everything we hear that makes us go “Huh?!”. Check out all past entries here.

The General Sonthi Boonyaratglin of 2006 is very different from the Sonthi Boonyaratglin of today. The former was army chief and led the 2006 military coup that toppled the government of Thaksin Shinawatra and created one of the first pivotal moments of  the current political crisis. Sonthi has since retired from military service, hung up his uniform in exchange for a business suit, became a MP and leader of the Matubhum Party. And for some utterly inexplicable reason, he also heads the House committee on national reconciliation. When pressed to reveal who’s really behind the coup,  Sonthi swore to take his secrets to the grave.

For the chairman of a committee to evaluate the roots of the political crisis and find solutions for the much heralded reconciliation (which nobody has properly defined it yet), a former army chief that led a military coup wouldn’t be the first choice to my mind.

Recently though, he at least revealed the real reasons for the coup…

พล.อ.สนธิ กล่าวว่า ระบบชนชั้นถือเป็นอุปสรรคในการพัฒนาประชาธิปไตย เพราะยึดติดบุคคลมากกว่าองค์กร ขณะเดียวกันไม่ว่าใครมาเข้ามาบริหารประเทศก็จะยึดติดอยู่กับเรื่องการเมืองและเศรษฐกิจ แต่มองข้ามเรื่องความรักความสามัคคีของประชาชนในประเทศ ซึ่งความขัดแย้งของไทยมีมาตั้งแต่ปี 2475 และขัดแย้งรุนแรงสุดในปี 2549 จากการปฏิวัติรัฐประหาร แต่แท้จริงแล้วเหตุผลของการปฏิวัติ คือต้องการให้เกิดความสามัคคีเพราะเหตุหลักๆไม่มีรัฐบาลใดที่จะสร้างความเข้มแข็งในกรณีดังกล่าวนี้ จนถึงปัจจุบันนี้ก็ผ่านรัฐบาลมาแล้ว 5 ชุด ซึ่งส่วนใหญ่ก็ยังเน้นแก้ปัญหาในเรื่องเศรษฐกิจ การเมือง และการปกครอง แต่ในการพัฒนาสังคมทำน้อยมาก

General Sonthi said: “The clash of the classes is a barrier for the development of democracy because it is dependent of individuals rather than organizations. No matter who comes to serve [in the government] is only focused on politics and economy but overlook the [issue of] unity of the Thai people. Thus, divisions have existed since 1932, and the 2006 coup has caused the most – but the real reason of the coup is the need for unity because no [civil] government whatsoever has created a strong enough one. To this day, we had five governments that mostly have focussed on solving the problems in economy and politics, but very little in the development of society.”

“บิ๊กบัง” ชี้ ระบบชนชั้นเป็นอุปสรรคในการพัฒนาประชาธิปไตย“, Daily News, April 20, 2012 – translation by me

Gen. Sonthi seems to get lost in his own words: On one hand, he acknowledges the severe consequences of the military coup that did more harm than good. But then on the other he still insists that it was the only legitimate way to restore national unity among all Thais! To put it in simpler terms: to restore ‘democracy’ they had to stage a non-democratic coup!

Nevertheless he faces strong criticism from those who are still supporting the coup, accusing him of being in cahoots with the Yingluck government to give Thaksin a clean slate for a return. It seems that the Sonthi of today is really a different one from the General Sonthi – so much so that, according to a satirical cartoon in Manager/ASTV, his 2006-self shoots himself in the head in shame of his current self.

Note: coup de main [ˈˌku də ˈmeɪn]: noun, “a sudden surprise attack, esp. one made by an army during war.”

If you come across any verbosities that you think might fit in here send us a email at siamvoices [at] gmail.com or tweet us @siamvoices.

Saksith Saiyasombut is a Thai blogger and journalist currently based in Hamburg, Germany. He can be followed on Twitter @Saksith and on Facebook here.

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