Saturday, 31 May 2014

Why China Could Stand to Gain from the Coup in Thiland.

The decision to put off any election in Thailand for a period of 15 months by General Prayuth Chan-ocha and to put into effect political 'reforms', that will put an end to the political turmoil that has been going on since 2011, is essentially an attempt to restore the predominant role of the 'monarchy-military nexus'.

The US and EU diplomats expressing 'concern' and demanding elections do so because since the new Pivot to Asia strategy that started in 2010, Washington has tended to back the Shinawatras because they do win elections and because they are allied to pro-US political forces across the border in Cambodia.

The Pivot to Asia is all about containing the military threat posed by China to Washington's regional partners and, in particular its claims to the territorial waters of the South China Sea where there are copious supplies of oil, and the Middle Kingdom's rivalry with the US for influence in South East Asia.

Given that the US and EU tacitly allowed the military in Egypt to launch a coup and gun down protesters in the street, while offering only tokenistic and mealy-mouthed condemnations, the Thai military have had no reason to believe that its coup would meet with effective western opposition.

One reason is that Thailand was a key part of Washington's strategy of containing communism during the Cold War and now of China as it overtakes the US in the wake of the financial crash of 2008 to become the world's largest economy with which Thailand has an increased amount of trade.

Should the US start to withdraw more of its military aid to Thailand, the monarchy-military nexus could always start to draw on Chinese military assistance and pull away from the joint naval cooperation essential to Washington's plan to control the oil tanker routes to China.

China has every interest in a military government in Thailand moving closer to Beijing in order to offset Washington's attempt to secure naval predominance in South East Asia and so be able to use the potential stopping of China's oil imports as a coercive tool of diplomacy.

Beijing has already watched as a traditional ally in Myanmar ( Burma ) has become closer to aligning with Washington, in response to nationalist discontent with Chinese dominance over its mining sector infrastructure projects, and has witnessed the establishment of military ties and prospectively lucrative arms deals.

If China is able to exploit the insecurity the monarchy-military nexus has at the threat of being pushed out of the privileged position they had under US auspices throughout the Cold War and until the first part of the twenty first century, it can thwart part of Washington's Pivot to Asia strategy.

When General Prayuth claims that 'Thais' like me, have probably not been happy for nine years' he is referring to the fact the 2006 coup did not, in the end, defeat the power of the Shinawatra dynasty and also, in effect, the fact that the US has moved closer to them after initially being wary of Thaksin's party.

What the monarchy military nexus want is an authoritarian government and the reduced threat of any attempt to erode their privileges through the Shinawatras mobilisation of the votes of the urban wage earners and rural classes who have seen higher food and energy prices due to dependence on imported oil.

With the impact of climate change causing floods and droughts that have caused havoc to Thai rice yields, both the Shinawatra party and their enemies have seen China as an alternative source of aid and assistance and, in the case of the generals, an example of a prosperous economy without the chaotic democracy.

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