Immediately after the September 19th coup d'etat a considerable number of foreign journalists and academics in
Thaksin’s divisive and failing policies coupled with his grotesque arrogance were too much for most and anything, even the strong arm of the military toppling a democratically elected government, was deemed preferable to his prolonged tenure.
One of the few initial, and rather vocal, voices opposing the junta was Professor Giles Ungpakorn of
About a week after the coup Giles gave a particularly spirited attack against the junta while it was still unfashionable to do so.
Supporters of the coup were ‘tank liberals’ he claimed and rhetorically questioned whether academics that supported the coup would “all burn their Comparative Politics books and scrap all courses on ‘democratization’ in favor of teaching military science and tank maintenance?”
Giles’ academic wrath has now been focused into valuable new book titled A Coup for the Rich – Thailand’s Political Crisis.
The book is certainly ‘hot of the press’ but it’s not exactly for sale. It seems that
What makes the book particularly worth reading is both the fact that its banning reflects the pathetic state of press freedom in
Giles lashes insightful criticism on almost everyone. The military, the pu yai (upper class), and even the monarchy are fair game.
Such criticism is not just refreshing in a country where open political discussion is extremely curtailed but it is essential if
What Giles does best though is bring a clever, spirited, and serious challenge to
His unprecedented questioning of the monarchy is nothing short of breath-taking.
In a climate of fear where any rational questioning of the monarchy has the very real possibility of leading to a prison term it is important to have an academic brave enough to raise important issues that are essential elements to resolving
The book does have flaws though. Giles follows a rather strict socialist ideology that tends to lionize the poor as free from the bigoted villainy of the upper class. Unfortunately, humanity's capacity for bad behavior spans all classes so poverty doesn't automatically result in higher morals values as the book often suggests.
But such criticism is limited. Not only has Giles initiated essential political dialogue that
While scolding the international media for our lackadaisical challenge to military rule he gave a wily smile and reminded us that dogs don’t give birth to humans, should we expect coups to give birth to democracy?
*As far as I know the only place to buy Giles' book is still from his office in the faculty of political science at Chulalongkorn. If anyone know's another source, please leave a comment and let us know.