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Seductive dangers of a coup mentality

It is both myopic and ironic that the leader of a group of citizens who claim to want to protect the country would begin his campaign by calling for a military coup. That's precisely what Pitak Siam (Protecting Siam) group leader retired General Boonlert Kaewprasit did when he launched the movement some weeks ago.

Now he aims to convince even more people to join his anti-government demonstration, which drew an estimated crowd of some 20,000 the last time around, in a "do or die" bid to remove the government, which he portrayed as corrupt and anti-monarchist.

Boonlert, aka Seh Ai, is on the defensive amid accusations of wanting to deep freeze Thailand through a coup, however, and the retired general said on Sunday he merely wants to freeze corrupt politicians by removing them from power.

The obvious problem is he has not consulted the majority of the electorate on whether or not they agree with his view and that of his supporters.

Calling for a coup to oust an elected government is tantamount to deep freezing or nullifying the political rights of a majority of the electorate who have chosen the Pheu Thai Party.

Perhaps Thailand should learn from the latest general election in the United States, where nearly half the electorate voted for Mitt Romney yet accepted defeat after slightly more people voted for Barack Obama. In the US, it's unthinkable that someone would call for a military coup to solve a political dispute. Yet Thais who oppose Thaksin-Yingluck Shinawatra are doing just that and find it palatable.

It seems that Boonlert and his supporters and co-leaders, including Tul Sitthisomwong, leader of the multi-coloured-shirt group, haven't learned any lessons from Thai history, one reading of which claims that coups d'etat are a vehicle to advance a benign and righteous society. If military coups are good, then the 18 "successful" coups over the past eight decades should have made Thailand an uber-moral and squeaky clean society by now.

Instead, the last coup in 2006, which ousted Thaksin, only heightened mutual political hatred and distrust on both sides.

What people like Boonlert and Tul, along with the self-styled People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD), should try to do is to convince others that perhaps they should vote for a different political party in the next general election.

However, using dehumanising terms in referring to pro-Thaksin-Yingluck red shirts as "red water buffaloes" would hardly aid such a cause.

If they want to deep freeze their brains and indulge themselves in a fantasy of an unelected form of governance, then that's their choice. Their only legitimate way to achieve this is to convince others through reasoning and debate and not through the force of yet another coup.

Even if there were to be such a coup, an eventual general election is no longer impossible to put off indefinitely and society will simply be back to square one with people who have their political rights violated by a coup voting for the party that they prefer.

Thailand's path forward is not in installing a group of "morally self-righteous" people at the helm through any means - but in ensuring that equal political rights and a level playing field be realised so everyone can take an active part in the country's development, be it political, economic or cultural.

The system where a handful self-righteous elites hold sway over obedient millions is long past, and even if a military coup was to be staged today, it would not succeed in convincing people to simply accept their lot in life and shut their mouths.

The time is long gone when a small number of unelected elites can lord over the majority without any resistance. Some are willing to hold on to this forlorn delusion indefinitely, however hilarious, and at whatever cost to Thailand.