Thursday, September 21, 2006

Blogging the Military Coup in Thailand...

This week, Thailand's armed forces moved against Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra in a coup to oust him from power. A message was televised Tuesday night "telling the public that the armed forces were in temporary control but power would be returned “to the people” soon. [The broadcaster] said “rampant corruption” and government meddling in independent institutions had prompted the armed forces and police to take over and set up a body to oversee political reforms. An election would follow, in which Mr Thaksin would be allowed to stand." (The Economist)

This is hardly the first military coup where a government has been overthrown, even in recent years. But what seems uniquely interesting in this case is the relative calm and subdued mood among the Thai people while these events are occurring.

While the mainstream media focuses on the political events at the elite level, the blogosphere is filled with stories by "citizen journalists" depicting a very different story on the ground. Metroblogging Bangkok has been producing daily reports on the scene, describing what people's experiences have been in what should be a crazy week in Thailand, yet the developing story seems to be a lack of a story "in the streets". Tales abound of "mellow Bangkokers" going on with their regular lives without too much complication, and the blog includes photos of the "action" in Bangkok, depicting pedestrians posing for pictures next to smiling soldiers. While this appears to be the most common analysis in the blogosphere, certainly it is not the only viewpoint available. MySpacer "Paul" describes how he and his father withdrew as much cash as they could in fear of a falling currency.

This is Exhibit A of why the blogosphere is great. Traditional media might act as gatekeepers of the news that people consume, yet blogs offer ordinary citizens the opportunity to share their experiences on the ground - often opening a window to a world very different from that which CNN is constucting.

Don't only apply that lesson to the military coup in Thailand. Some favorite blogs on different perspectives in Iraq include a soldier's daily experieces living and fighting in Iraq, as well as that of an Iraqi woman living in Baghdad.


At 12:43 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The reason the mood is so mellow is the the most underreported fact in the mainstream media - that though this was a military coup, the vast majority of the Thai people supported it. It was a coup with a mandate of the people - who were fed up with their democracy languishing in legal limbo due to the machinations of a billionaire despot. Thaksin had to go, and despite decrees from the highest democratic institutions in the land, he refused. Unfortunately due to the lack of any effective mechanism to impeach or dismiss a government in Thailand (and thanks to the nature of the corrupt-crony model of politics practised by all sides in Thailand), there was effectively no choice left.

Let's just hope the redrafting of the constitution involves developing a proper method to do dismiss a government - Thais know well and good that the king won't live forever and he simply cannot be relied on to keep stepping in and saving the day when Democracy is threatened.

Nice place you got here, I'll be back.


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