Much is made in the west of the supposed enigmatic qualities of the east and generally that sentiment really tells us more about a lack of knowledge among westerners than about the complexities of things Asian. However, Thailand may be an exception. Even the most astute observers are regularly caught off guard by political developments inside the kingdom.
I remember speaking to one of America’s most respected Thai specialists seven years ago just before the coup against former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, and he sagely advised that all was stable in Bangkok and there were no threats to his popularly elected government. Two weeks later, on September 19 2006, the army was in the streets and the military took power, repeating a tragic pattern that has bedevilled Thailand’s politics for decades.