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    Posted May 23, 2014 by
    SPSomtow
    Location
    Bangkok, Thailand
    Assignment
    Assignment
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    Thai military declares coup

    More from SPSomtow

    In Thailand, Coups are a little different

     

    CNN PRODUCER NOTE     S.P. Somtow is a composer and novelist in Thailand. "I decided to put out this commentary because most commentary in Thailand is very partisan, and most international commentary attempts to match the story to preconceived ideas and therefore doesn't really cover the full story," he said. Learn more about the Thailand coup on CNN.com.
    - rachel8, CNN iReport producer

    For the past day or so, images of soldiers taking over Thailand have flooded the international media, who can’t be blamed for immediately thinking the worst. But on the ground, average, non-extremist citizens in this country have mostly felt a sense of relief. There is a strong feeling that a coup is the least of three evils.

     

    For almost a year, the level of rhetoric between pro and anti government camps has been escalating. While often painted as a rich-versus-poor struggle, this is a much more complicated situation here and really it’s more like new money versus old money.

     

    There is no question that the new money, media-savvy Thaksinists understood very quickly the need to seize the international high ground. The overseas rhetoric and the hatemongering in Thailand, however, have had a remarkably different spin.

     

    The more inward-looking old money crowd did not seem to realize that times have changed. They did not bring up the allegations of extrajudicial killings, massacre of Muslims, or other “internationally bankable” failings of the Thaksinites, preferring to harp on corruption, a charge they themselves could hardly be considered exempt from.

     

    The warring factions have shown remarkable intransigence. Opportunities for a breakthrough, offers to mediate, and detailed plans which took into account the grievances of both camps have been roundly rejected. It took a declaration of martial law to even drag the two sides into the same room for a discussion on how to find an end to the impasse.

     

    Once they were in the same room, neither side would budge; General Prayuth then had them all bundled off and took over the country.

     

    In any other country, a coup would be a cause for bloodshed, alarm, mass flight and refugee camps. But reaction in Bangkok at least has mostly been something like, “Thank God, these people needed a spanking.” Upcountry, one suspects a more negative reaction, but there isn’t much reportage available right now.

     

    It is also clear that with a coup, both sides save face; both may retire from the battle zone without conceding defeat. It is indeed a peculiarly Thai way of handling such a crisis.

     

    People are not, however, hailing the coup with cheers, either. Last time this happened, eight years ago, crowds greeted the soldiers with flowers. Today, reaction is a lot more muted because last time the army took power, they are widely perceived as having botched their chance to improve things.

     

    This morning in Thailand, there may be in fact a slight renewal of optimism. People hope that the reluctance of General Prayuth to seize control signals that the military have made a serious attempt to learn the lessons of their last intervention.

     

    Once again, here in the Land of Smiles, we are living from moment to moment.

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