About six months ago I was hoping that the the problems in Thailand would get resolved peacefully. It now rather looks as if they will be, but only because the military have staged a coup and ousted Thaksin Shinawatra, the democratically elected prime minister. Which wasn't really what I had in mind as an ideal outcome. And yet...
One of the problems with democracy is that sometimes the voters pick the wrong person. You have to wonder what possessed the the British Conservative Party to choose first William Hague and then Ian Duncan-Smith as the leader of their party. That would never have happened in the old days when the party grandees would rouse themselves from their comfortable chairs and choose a "suitable" person to take on the job. It goes without saying that they wouldn't have chosen David Cameron (or at least not just yet).
The Thai people chose Thaksin because he seemed to offer a change from the past. When he proved to be no different from most of his predecessors, he should have lost the next election and disappeared from public life. Indeed, if the voters of Bangkok had their way, then that is exactly what would have happened, but Thaksin remained extremely popular with the electorate in the rest of the country. As far as they were concerned, he had made a promise to help them and he hadn't let them down, so they were happy to vote for him. In a democracy, the majority prevail over the minority, and the majority of people in Thailand live in rural areas.
Thaksin could probably have remained in power, but he really pushed his luck by ignoring the King's opinions and also trying to put his own people in to run the military. He must have know that this was a high-risk strategy, and hardly a wise thing for an unpopular leader to do, especially so soon after the fuss about the way that he had avoided paying tax on the sales of his company. Winning an election does not mean that you can do whatever you want
Nevertheless, I'm sure there are scores (if not hundreds) of leaders in newspapers around the world today expressing grave concerns about the way that democracy has been undermined in Thailand. Well, yes, but I suspect that history will judge that Thaksin did rather more to damage to democracy in Thailand than Tuesday's coup.
So whilst I feel uneasy about Thaksin being deposed by a military coup, and by the King's role in all of this, it's hard to escape the conclusion that a new civilian government and a revised constitution could very well be the best outcome.