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Thai Military Overthrows Government, Declares Martial Law

The military in Thailand ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra Tuesday while he was in New York for U.N. meetings, declared martial law and revoked the constitution. Two analysts discuss growing tension between the prime minister and the monarchy and other factors that could have led to the coup.

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  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    And to help us understand what's going on with this still-moving story, we're joined by Catharin Dalpino, director of the Thai studies program at Georgetown University. She served as deputy assistant secretary of state during the first Clinton administration.

    And Richard Doner is associate professor of political science at Emory University. He's written extensively about Thailand and was last there this summer.

    Catharin Dalpino, we're in the early stages. A lot of the information is very sketchy. But in a nutshell, what does it look like to you? What's happening?

  • CATHARIN DALPINO, Georgetown University:

    I think what we've seen so far is a military intervention to force the conclusion to a longstanding political situation, but not a return to military rule as Thailand saw in the '50s and '60s, for example.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    Longstanding instability. Tell us a little bit about that. What's been happening over the last year, really?

  • CATHARIN DALPINO:

    Well, there has been instability, but also a certain amount of stability. It's not quite that easy. There's been a protracted political crisis based on an election and an attempt to unseat the prime minister, primarily by a popular uprising in the Bangkok classes.

    Elections have returned him as prime minister, but it's clear that a significant part of Bangkok has not been with him. What happened today, I think, was an attempt to basically force the prime minister to come to a conclusion that perhaps might have been a couple of months down the road, with elections that were scheduled in November.

    What we won't see is a lot of negotiation that will go on behind the scenes in the next couple of days, so this is a very incomplete process.

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