Why one of Asia’s most open societies keeps turning to military rule

HA047__AdamFerguson-Harpers-1506-1Ian Buruma at Harper's Magazine:

As military coups go, Thailand’s putsch on May 22, 2014, was rather polite — no mass imprisonments, no stadiums full of students tortured and shot. The toppled prime minister, Yingluck Shinawatra, was detained for only three days. Before the coup, there had been months of street clashes between loyalist “red shirts” and opposition “yellow shirts,” and now General Prayuth Chan-ocha’s junta promised to “restore happiness to the people.”

There have since been some public protests against martial law. Students were arrested in Bangkok for flashing a three-finger salute copied from The Hunger Games, the novel and attendant movie about a rebellion against a fictional dictatorship. Modest three-finger student demonstrations have also taken place in Khon Kaen, a city in the rural northeast that is considered the main red-shirt stronghold. The salute is now banned in Thailand, as is public reading of George Orwell’s 1984. But so far, opposition to the junta has not found a popular voice — no great demonstrations, no acts of violence.

It is easy, under such relatively tranquil conditions, not to take Thailand and its coups entirely seriously. Military takeovers occur with some regularity there. Eight years before Yingluck Shinawatra was deposed, her brother, Thaksin Shinawatra — an ex-policeman who made a fortune in the cell phone business before being elected prime minister in 2001 — was similarly removed from office.

more here.