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Can a coup be justified?

Peter van Dyk | 17:57 UK time, Thursday, 21 September 2006

Today, as Thailand enters its third day under military rule, we're asking if a coup can ever be justified, and when a coup becomes a revolution.

Is and Rod joined us on the phone from Bangkok. Is said that a coup was not the right way to change things but given the situation in the country, he thought it was the right thing to do.

Rod agreed, hoping that the country can be unified after two divisive years.

John Taylor, a professor of politics at South Bank University in London, asked if support would be different if the benefits weren't universal.

Rod said that the coup wasn't ideal but it would take Thailand back to democracy.

Professor Taylor worried that this coup, even though it is supported by much of the public, wouldn't lead to elections in the next year.

Ben in Bangkok argued that you need to distinguish between democracy and a democratic dictatorship - which he said Thailand had suffered for the past seven years.

Ajaree, a Thai in Brussels, said that the coup might not be the best solution, but it is an acceptable option to solve the country's long unsolved political problems.

Semi in Nigeria said a coup was never justifiable.

Retired Brigadier Shaukat Qadir spoke to us from Pakistan. He said that western democracy didn't necessarily work in Asia, and that democracy had to follow its own path.

However, he added that a coup always sets back the process on the path to democracy. The evolution has to be allowed to occur.

Professor Taylor agreed that in Thailand there had been democracy and it had been set back by the coup.

Kim in Portland, Oregon:

I believe that there are many of us in the US who wouldn’t mind seeing a coup here in America to overthrow the current regime! It won’t happen of course, and technically we have democracy, but our government is so backwards sometimes it seems like the only way out of the mess our current dictator has gotten us, and the rest of the world in. (Now I’m probably on some no-fly list just for writing this!)

Ali joined us from Pakistan. He said the takeover by General Musharaf in his country was a disaster - a democratic government is always better.

Ros argued that President Musharaf might argue that with the situation in Pakistan in 1999, something had to change.

Ali said maybe things had to change, but the military didn't have to change it. The general may have done some good, but it doesn't change the problems with freedom of speech.

Nayar in Karachi rejected that what happened in 1999 was a coup - it was a response to the situation at the time. And he said that it was a blessing because it has enabled Pakistan to respond to the new world post-9/11.

Riz from Sydney

The effects of coup depends from country to country. Pro democratic nations have not experienced the need of a coup yet.

Godfrey in Uganda warned Steve not to take the idea of a coup lightly. He recallled the military dictatorship of Idi Amin from 1971-79.

Edward Luttwak, the author of Coup d'Etat: A Practical Handbook argued that what happened in Thailand wasn't a classic coup. Ret Brig Qadir said that any time the armed force seized power it was coup.

Edward Luttwak countered that since it wasn't a single army officer breaking ranks and taking over - rather the whole army took power - then it was a pronunciamento. Therefore the hopes of Thais we heard from earlier in the programme may be justified.

Chris in Salem, Mass., said that because the coup was reportedly supported by the king, we should wait six months and see what happens.

Professor Taylor said that the point wasn't what happens in the next few months, it was that Thailand has frequently witnessed coups throughout the 20th century and this latest coup

Jay called in from London to talk to Susa in Uganda and point out that Idi Amin's coup had popular support, because he promised social change by blaming the country's problems on the South Asian population. But they found out that he was not stable.

Susa agreed but argued that the point of the coup and the failure of Idi Amin to fulfil the promises he came to power with is a different matter.

Ros finally asked if our African callers would ever be tempted by a coup.

Ajaji in Nigeria said that people might be but the big problem was that people have lost confidence in the military.

Godfrey in Uganda agreed some people might be tempted but he said "democracy is a process, we've embraced it, let's keep it up."


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