Everything is by the book.
First, martial law on Tuesday, May 20 — at 3am of course ... the element of surprise was all-important (although early morning surprises don’t always work; see the amnesty bill that triggered this current chain reaction).
The reason from the military was simple. The choice was either martial law or protracted and increasing mob rule, as central authority has collapsed and democracy has failed.
Then on Thursday afternoon, May 22, a coup d'etat was declared — during broad daylight, bold and certain. The reason from the military was again simple. The warring parties weren’t collaborating. They refused to sit down and talk. Both the red shirts and anti-government protesters were still dug in. Caretaker prime minister Niwattumrong Boonsongpaisan rejected any participation. War weapons have been found. There’s danger of escalating violence.
So, a coup was announced. What followed has been Coup 101 from a Thai military college. There might even be an actual course.
Control of information: Control every radio and TV channel — and since Thailand went digital a couple of months back, there are hundreds of TV channels. All TV channels shared the same screen with really bad music. They could just rerun Baitoey R Siam music videos 24/7 and the people would be contented, really. Meanwhile, patrons walked out of Soi Cowboy crying to heaven, "Why, oh why must this happen on discount lap dance night?" Somehow, the internet was not shut down. So that’s some relief for everyone.
Relevant actors from both sides were summoned, including politicians and street protest leaders. Some came voluntarily, some not so voluntarily. The most famous clip of that day was perhaps of Suthep Thaugsuban hauled into a van, flanked by army men, and taken away. Then there’s the news of the army dispersing the red shirts from Aksa Road and arresting the leaders.
Evening traffic was horrendous, as people all made their way home at once. This wasn’t because there was a panic. No one was panicking. It’s just that offices and malls had to close early. There’s simply nowhere else to go in Bangkok. Then there’s the 10pm curfew announcement. Online chat rooms were buzzing, "Does this mean no Thong Lor clubbing tonight?" Thursday nights are usually the best. Not too crowded.
Come Friday morning, May 23, another round of summons was announced. This time the list was full of army generals and other high-ranking officers. Round up potential troublemakers. Make sure there are no divisions among the ranks.
Now we look into the crystal ball to ascertain the future. An appointed government would take charge for about a year. During that year, the constitution will be rewritten and certain policies implemented to set Thailand on the "right" course. Those will be the things the public and the media are privy to and able to follow the progress of.
Behind the scenes, however, there will be plenty of wheeling and dealing, cajoling and haranguing, deals made and deals broken, alliance shifts, enemies becoming friends and friends becoming enemies. Everyone jockeying for the best position available — assets returned, not returned, maybe, maybe not and so on and so forth. These are the things the people and the media won’t be privy to.
But it’s okay because the next season of The Voice Thailand should be on air by that time.
After the year is up, there will be an election. Two things could result from this.
1) The Democrat Party could actually win. They might declare a national holiday to commemorate this historic event. But it would be because there’s no Thaksin Shinawatra puppet, clone or nominee to stand against the Democrats. It might also be because after redrawing the electoral map, Chiang Mai will be down to two parliamentary seats, while Surat Thani has 100.
2) Another Thaksin puppet, clone or nominee could win. To which, if he pulls that off, everyone should take a moment to reflect upon the meaning of life and whisper to ourselves, "By the gods, he’s good."
While laying out this scenario to a friend, she asked ever so innocently, "Is this a good thing?" To which the reply was, "Well, honey, that depends on which side you are on."
She then asked, "Which side are you on?" Flashing a devil-may-care smile, the answer was, "I don’t think much of either side. I’m just amused by it all."
Followed by a wink.
Email Voranai Vanijaka at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bangkok Post columnist
Voranai Vanijaka is a columnist, Bangkok Post.