Thailand awoke to another military coup this morning. It was hardly surprising. In fact, for the last few months the feeling has been “let’s just have the coup already” – as summer follows spring, as coup follows corruption, it was inevitable.

The previous coup, in 2006, overthrew the Thaksin regime which was briefly replaced by a government led by the Democrats. However, come the next general election, Thaksin’s puppet government led by his younger sister was installed by popular decree. In other words, the 2006 coup and a new constitution had achieved nothing; Thailand’s government was still headed by a party (now called Pheu Thai) which followed the criminal fugitive’s every whim. As the political slogan at the time went “Thaksin thinks; Pheu Thai acts”.

Thaksin has been hell-bent on maintaining power since this enables him and his cronies to rob the country blind with utter impunity. In political discussions a couple of days ago with General Prayuth (head of the army), with the country already under martial law, Thaksin joined in on speakerphone (or Skype don’t know which). He refused to bend an inch and insisted that his puppet regime remain in power. This triggered Prayuth’s wrath (he slammed his hand down hard on the desk) and the coup.

It’s not that Thaksin is particularly corrupt by Thai standards – just that he’s been more successful at it than most. The number of “unusually rich” politicians, government bureaucrats, heads of state enterprises and senior military figures is quite staggering, but virtually nothing seems to be done against them. And if it is, they just conveniently leave the country until the statute of limitations for their crime expires.

Herein lies the problem: for Thailand to move forward corruption needs dramatically to be curtailed, but those in power (with some honourable exceptions) are the ones who benefit most from it. Much as turkeys are loathe to vote for Christmas, Thai politicians are reluctant seriously to pursue anti-corruption measures. After all, they need the money for, amongst other things, bribing the electorate.

And as long as there is corruption, Thaksin and others of his ilk will be able to bribe the populace to vote for him and his party. Like the previous, the current coup will in all probability amount to nothing. And in a few years it will be Groundhog Day all over again.

In the meantime TV is reduced to a Powerpoint slide of various logos backed by patriotic music on all channels, and there’s curfew from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m..


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