Exchange students experience Thai coup

By Dana Owens
Sidelines

Amidst the bloodless revolution that occurred in Thailand early last week, two MTSU students witnessed the coup d’etat from exchanged perspectives.

Thai exchange student Nisanee Chaiprakobiwiriya read about the revolution from her dorm room in Corlew Hall while Kori Diamond, a junior from MTSU, experienced the coup first-hand in Bangkok.

“No one seems nervous, and people go about daily life as usual,” Diamond stated in an e-mail Saturday.
“There are soldiers placed in what may seem like random positions around the city but are probably not. People give them flowers and bring them gifts and drinks to show some kind of support.” Diamond said her parents were more nervous about the revolution than she or anyone else in Thailand. According to Chaiprakobiwiriya, this is not unexpected.

There have been 17 coups in Thailand throughout the twentieth century, so the military take-over last Tuesday was not so alarming, said Chaiprakobiwiriya, adding that she was too young during the last coup in 1992 to remember what happened.

“It’s a coup d’etat, but it’s not violent. I think Thai people are happy with this,” Chaiprakobiwiriya said. “Most Thai people [didn’t] like the government because of the corruption and everything.”

Thailand’s military overthrew popularly-elected Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra amid mounting criticism that he had undermined democracy.

Thaksin, a telecommunications tycoon turned politician, had won three general elections since coming to power in 2001 and garnered great support among the rural poor for his populist policies.

In the process, he alienated the urban middle class, intellectuals and pro-democracy activists. They began mass street demonstrations late last year, charging Thaksin with abuse of power, corruption and emasculation of the country’s democratic institutions, including what was once one of Asia’s freest presses.

“What I find most interesting is how much [the bloodless revolution] reflects Thai culture. Any guide book will tell you first-off how non-confrontational Thai culture is,” said Diamond, an anthropology major currently studying Thai culture. “And I find it interesting that they wait until the guy is out of the country to take over.”

Striking when Thaksin was in New York at the U.N. General Assembly, army commander Gen. Sondhi Boonyaratkalin sent tanks and troops to guard major intersections and surround government buildings in the night-time streets of Bangkok. The military raided Thaksin’s offices, seized control of television stations and declared a provisional authority loyal to the king.

“People were so relaxed about all of it,” Diamond said. “When I imagine a coup, I think of the violent past happenings of South America and Africa, never what I have been experiencing here.” Diamond said she found out about the coup just after seeing a movie with a friend. She then went home to watch Thai television broadcasts explaining what had happened.

“I began receiving odd text messages telling me that a coup d’etat/revolution had occurred and that I shouldn’t leave my apartment,” she said. “All the phone lines were down, so everyone was texting like crazy.”

Chaiprakobiwiriya first read about the revolution when she checked her e-mail after one of her political science classes last Wednesday. She talked to her parents shortly thereafter to discover that they were doing well.

Chaiprakobiwiriya said, though her friends knew of the coup from the Internet, many websites were shut down.

As an junior international relations major, Chaiprakobiwiriya has a special interest in what is happening in her home country and has been checking the Internet frequently for the latest news.

“At first I was very excited,” she said, adding that her friends in Thailand are also excited about the situation, though her parents remain hesitant.

Thammasat University in Bangkok, where Diamond is studying and Chaiprakobiwiriya calls home, is a nerve-center for political activity in Thailand.

Chaiprakobiwiriya said, though the students at her university were politically active and wanted to see a change, they were not able to express themselves under Thaksin’s rule. Despite this, her political science professors would frequently discuss problems in the government.

“[Thammasat] University has an organization who disagrees with the Prime Minister but also disagrees with having a coup to change things,” Diamond said.

Protests against the government had been taking place for the past year at Thammasat, which is known for it’s political science and law programs, Chaiprakobiwiriya said. Though protests are currently taking place in Bangkok, now in opposition of the military rule, any assembly of more than five people is punishable by six months in prison. Still, there has been no violence or arrests.

Sondhi, who is acting as prime minister until a new, interim leader is chosen, said a constitution will be drafted which will hold future leaders more accountable. New elections are slated to take place by Oct. 2007.

Since she will be studying at MTSU until spring, Chaiprakobiwiriya may miss the first elections of the new government. She said while she is disappointed to miss out on what could be the most important elections in Thailand, she does not expect a full democracy right away.

Despite this, Chaiprakobiwiriya said she is not too eager to return home.

“I’m having fun here,” she said of MTSU.

As for Diamond, she is hoping to extend her stay in Thailand from one semester to a full year.

“Thailand is a completely different world, one of those incredible places that you just have to experience to understand,” Diamond said. “I love my school and have formed an amazing community with the other international students here, as well as many Thai people.”

Chaiprakobiwiriya is studyng at MTSU for two semesters, this being her first. This is also her first visit to the United States.

Amidst the bloodless revolution that occurred in Thailand early last week, two MTSU students witnessed the coup d’etat from exchanged perspectives.

Thai exchange student Nisanee Chaiprakobiwiriya read about the revolution from her dorm room in Corlew Hall while Kori Diamond, a junior from MTSU, experienced the coup first-hand in Bangkok.

“No one seems nervous, and people go about daily life as usual,” Diamond stated in an e-mail Saturday. “There are soldiers placed in what may seem like random positions around the city but are probably not. People give them flowers and bring them gifts and drinks to show some kind of support.” Diamond said her parents were more nervous about the revolution than she or anyone else in Thailand. According to Chaiprakobiwiriya, this is not unexpected.

There have been 17 coups in Thailand throughout the twentieth century, so the military take-over last Tuesday was not so alarming, said Chaiprakobiwiriya, adding that she was too young during the last coup in 1992 to remember what happened.

“It’s a coup d’etat, but it’s not violent. I think Thai people are happy with this,” Chaiprakobiwiriya said. “Most Thai people [didn’t] like the government because of the corruption and everything.”

Thailand’s military overthrew popularly-elected Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra amid mounting criticism that he had undermined democracy.

Thaksin, a telecommunications tycoon turned politician, had won three general elections since coming to power in 2001 and garnered great support among the rural poor for his populist policies.

In the process, he alienated the urban middle class, intellectuals and pro-democracy activists. They began mass street demonstrations late last year, charging Thaksin with abuse of power, corruption and emasculation of the country’s democratic institutions, including what was once one of Asia’s freest presses.

“What I find most interesting is how much [the bloodless revolution] reflects Thai culture. Any guide book will tell you first-off how non-confrontational Thai culture is,” said Diamond, an anthropology major currently studying Thai culture. “And I find it interesting that they wait until the guy is out of the country to take over.”

Striking when Thaksin was in New York at the U.N. General Assembly, army commander Gen. Sondhi Boonyaratkalin sent tanks and troops to guard major intersections and surround government buildings in the night-time streets of Bangkok. The military raided Thaksin’s offices, seized control of television stations and declared a provisional authority loyal to the king.

“People were so relaxed about all of it,” Diamond said. “When I imagine a coup, I think of the violent past happenings of South America and Africa, never what I have been experiencing here.” Diamond said she found out about the coup just after seeing a movie with a friend. She then went home to watch Thai television broadcasts explaining what had happened.

“I began receiving odd text messages telling me that a coup d’etat/revolution had occurred and that I shouldn’t leave my apartment,” she said. “All the phone lines were down, so everyone was texting like crazy.”

Chaiprakobiwiriya first read about the revolution when she checked her e-mail after one of her political science classes last Wednesday. She talked to her parents shortly thereafter to discover that they were doing well.

Chaiprakobiwiriya said, though her friends knew of the coup from the Internet, many websites were shut down.

As an junior international relations major, Chaiprakobiwiriya has a special interest in what is happening in her home country and has been checking the Internet frequently for the latest news.

“At first I was very excited,” she said, adding that her friends in Thailand are also excited about the situation, though her parents remain hesitant.

Thammasat University in Bangkok, where Diamond is studying and Chaiprakobiwiriya calls home, is a nerve-center for political activity in Thailand.

Chaiprakobiwiriya said, though the students at her university were politically active and wanted to see a change, they were not able to express themselves under Thaksin’s rule. Despite this, her political science professors would frequently discuss problems in the government.

“[Thammasat] University has an organization who disagrees with the Prime Minister but also disagrees with having a coup to change things,” Diamond said.

Protests against the government had been taking place for the past year at Thammasat, which is known for it’s political science and law programs, Chaiprakobiwiriya said. Though protests are currently taking place in Bangkok, now in opposition of the military rule, any assembly of more than five people is punishable by six months in prison. Still, there has been no violence or arrests.

Sondhi, who is acting as prime minister until a new, interim leader is chosen, said a constitution will be drafted which will hold future leaders more accountable. New elections are slated to take place by Oct. 2007.

Since she will be studying at MTSU until spring, Chaiprakobiwiriya may miss the first elections of the new government. She said while she is disappointed to miss out on what could be the most important elections in Thailand, she does not expect a full democracy right away.

Despite this, Chaiprakobiwiriya said she is not too eager to return home.

“I’m having fun here,” she said of MTSU.

As for Diamond, she is hoping to extend her stay in Thailand from one semester to a full year.

“Thailand is a completely different world, one of those incredible places that you just have to experience to understand,” Diamond said. “I love my school and have formed an amazing community with the other international students here, as well as many Thai people.”

Chaiprakobiwiriya is studying at MTSU for two semesters, this being her first. This is also her first visit to the United States.