Global Trends by Martin
Monday 25 September 2006
Thai coup tops eventful week
It was a most eventful
week, with the shocking coup in Thailand taking top position. Although
protests were muted, it was s step back fro democracy. At the United
Nations, leaders expressed worries about the state of the world and
of the UN. The World Bank-IMF meeting ended with an unimpressive reform
What a week it has been for
The top event was the coup
in Thailand. Yes, the country has previously been known for many coups,
and there has been political turmoil there in the last couple of years
due to the upheavals in the country’s Southern provinces and the Bangkok
protests to oust Prime Minister Thaksin.
But when it came the coup
was still shocking. That it was “bloodless” and apparently supported
by the King did not detract from its being a big step backwards for
The coup leaders promise
to restore democracy and there might indeed be a new prime minister
shortly but that too does not detract from the fact that he or she will
be appointed by the military chiefs and not elected.
And if new elections will
take place only in a year (as announced), that will mean military rule
for that long. Many hope there will be more stability, but if so it
will be a kind of imposed stability, with people afraid to voice or
act on their concerns.
That Thaksin’s overthrow
did not lead to violent or visible opposition could be due to his increasing
loss of legitimacy among the country’s urban elite and masses, resulting
from his perceived use of political power for private commercial interests
and his authoritarian ways.
In the rural areas he was
still popular because of innovative measures such as debt relief for
rural families and village projects aimed at reviving the rural economy.
One can only hope that what
comes next will turn out good for the Thai people, that democracy will
be restored quickly and that a new stability based on fair political
principles and an economy beneficial to the poor will be established.
At the United Nations General
Assembly in New York, Thaksin had to cancel his speech as his position
had become untenable.
But the annual gathering
of heads of governments was quite an exciting affair, with some memorable
Prime Minister Datuk Seri
Abdullah Badawi warned that the divide between the Muslim and Judeo-Christian
worlds will widen until the international community appreciates the
sense of humiliation Muslims feel at many actions around the world.
Recent events across the Middle East - from Palestine and Lebanon to
Iraq and Afghanistan - have "helped make what may once have been
extremist opinions part of the Muslim mainstream. The Muslim world certainly
sees all these as a complicity to humiliate Muslim countries and Muslim
Several countries spoke up
against the loss of legitimacy of the UN Security Council.
President Emile Lahoud of
Lebanon regretted that during Israel's aggression against his country,
the Security Council "looked powerless in its attempts to stop
the slaughter of Lebanon's children and protect the peace in Lebanon
and the Middle East."
He noted that it took over a month to produce a cessation of hostilities
that is yet to become a formal ceasefire. This raised serious questions
about the UN's ability to safeguard peace "when its resolutions
are subjected to the vagaries of a very few world powers."
The Iranian President Mahmoud
Ahmadinejad was just as blunt, accusing the United States for abusing
its power in the Security Council to punish others while protecting
its own interests and allies.
He said the Security Council
had become an “instrument of threat and coercion.” The US and Britain
used their veto power to further their own interests. “If they have
differences with a nation or state, they drag it to the Security Council”
and assign themselves the roles of “prosecutor, judge and executioner.
Is this a just order?”
Another riveting speaker
at the General Assembly was President Hugo Chávez of
Venezuela who said that the
US was doing all in its power to take over the world, but, if the world
were to survive, it could not allow this “dictatorship” to succeed.
The American president purported
to promote democracy, but “what type of democracy do you impose with
Marines and bombs?” President Chávez asked. “The devil came here yesterday,”
he said, referring to US President George W. Bush, and accused the US
of planning a coup in Venezuela.
Last week also saw the annual
meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank in Singapore.
The IMF agreed to change its equity shares (known as quotas) so as to
give a greater voice to developing countries.
immediate measures – raising the quotas of four countries by a bit –
did not really help as the shares of other developing countries had
to fall to accommodate that.
China’s share rose from 2.98% to 3.72% and Mexico from 1.21% to 1.45%,
the shares of others fell – for example, Malaysia from 0.7% to 0.68%
and India from 1.95% to 1.91%.
many developing countries, including Malaysia, agreed was that a phase
two of the reforms was promised, which will produce a new formula by
which the quotas of countries will be determined by their weight in
the world economy.
As a lot
of political wrangling is expected, there are concerns whether the second
phase will be completed and if so whether the developing countries will
really benefit in the end.
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