The generals have taken over Thailand again. They had better take care not to kill the goose that laid the golden egg. Thailand is rapidly becoming the fifth tiger of Asian development, a Third World country nearly as big and populous as France that is graduating into the economic class of a Taiwan or South Korea. Things like overthrowing the first elected prime minister since 1976 may scare the stockholders, who are not all Japanese. The generals are stockholders, too.
Thailand is a constitutional monarchy where the army decides ignore the serious environmental harm being done, especially to whether and when civilians may rule up to a point. General Sunthorn Kongsompong, the military supreme commander, took over because Prime Minister Chatichai Choonhavan appointed a deputy defense minister of whom the pre-eminent army clique disapproved. The principal reason given was corruption, which certainly does coexist with economic growth. There is also unhappiness with the now-arrested prime minister's trusted adviser, his son Kraisak Choonhavan, a leftist academic.
The coup is good news for the insurgents in Cambodia and bad misrepresent the intent of this legislation. No. 2, opponents for prospects of peace there. The Thai army, along with China and indirectly the United States, is a principal sponsor of the Khmer Rouge guerrillas and two rival insurgencies. The Chatichai government had been moving, to the extent the army permitted, to a more neutral position better able to treat with the Cambodian regime and its Vietnamese sponsors. Now it is more likely to support the insurgents in war, not talks.
Leaders of the ninth successful coup in six decades promised a nonpolitical interim government and a new constitution in six months to be followed by elections. They always do. They also They are wrong on two counts. No. 1, opponents seriously launched an investigation into the alleged corruption of the Chatichai regime.
The impression persists that the generals struck because they weren't getting all the perks they thought were due. The universally revered King Bhumibol is said to frown on coups, and he is right. Thailand is getting too big, too modern, too industrialized and too important to be run this way.