Siddhi B. Ranjitkar: Coups And Kings
Coups and Kings
By Siddhi B. Ranjitkar
The Thai-army coup on Tuesday, September 19, 2006 is a good lesson for the Nepalese politicians particularly the Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala and his circle of politicians advocating for a ceremonial king in Nepal despite the people’s aspiration for a republic. The Thai coup is also the clear proof of the ‘democracy and kingship’ cannot go together as once expressed by the former Deputy Prime Minister of the king in Nepal. Obviously, active kings are always for killing democracy.
If former Prime Minister of Thailand, Thaksin Shinawatra was a crook and undemocratic in dealing with his opponents, he deserved to be removed democratically, which means through general elections. Opposition political parties did not participate in the general elections held in Thailand in April 2006 making the elections not acceptable. Next elections are due in Thailand in a few months to come but before that the army seized the power with the blessing of the king.
The world has seen that Shinawatra’s political opponents and the king so revered by the Thai people finding Mr. Shinawatra gaining popularity among the rural poor and his policies being beneficial to the Thai people saw him as a potential threat wanted to remove him forever. Obviously, the king has been waiting for some time to seize the opportunity of removing Shinawatra got it when he was in New York to attend the 61st General Assembly meeting of the UN. So, the coup was there.
Now, democracy has gone from Thailand for some time to come no matter what the army generals promised to the people of returning power to civilians in the near future. This is in fact the standard practice of the army people as the world knew that the current president of Pakistan said the same thing when he seized the power from the democratically elected Prime Minister but he has no intention to return the power to the civilians even after so many years.
In Thailand, politicians have to fight for getting power again at what cost will be shown by the future confrontation between the democratic forces and the autocratic forces of the king and the army. Nobody knows how long will it take for the Thai people to get democracy back. Pakistanis have not been able to force out the self-declared president so far. Nepalis have recently got back democracy at the huge cost of human lives and economic losses.
The coup on October 04, 2002 in Nepal is not much different from the coup on September 19, 2006 in Thailand. The difference is only the timing. And the king in Nepal dismissed the democratically elected Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba amid the political turmoil caused by the not visionary politicians whereas the army in Thailand seized the power removing the interim Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra amid the political turmoil again caused by the not visionary politicians. Another difference is the king in Nepal wielded the power directly whereas the king in Thailand opted to be behind the army generals.
Nepalis need to know from the coup in Thailand that as long as the king is there the threat to democracy always exists. It must be an eye-opening event to the Nepalese Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala and other politicians who are for preserving the kingship in Nepal despite the popular uprising in Nepal in April 2006 was for removing the king once for all.
In Nepal if Prime Minister Koirala and his circle of politicians are successful to keep the current king even as a ceremonial king time will soon come for returning the notorious former ministers such as Kamal Thapa, Tanka Dhakal and even Tulsi Giri to the ministerial positions sending Madhav Kumar Nepal, Sher Bahadur Deuba and other politicians behind bars.
The House of Representatives in Nepal reinstated by the Nepalese people’s power has curtailed the power of the king on papers rather than removing him once for all. No doubt, the king has been dormant but the chance is still there he might one fine day will comeback to suppress the democracy-loving people.
Apparently, the bond between the king and the Nepal Army has been severed. The Royal Nepal Army has become the Nepal Army. The newly appointed Chief of Army Staff took the oath of alliance from the Prime Minister Koirala breaking up the age-old tradition of taking the oath from the king. Certainly, the king is no more the Commander-in-Chief of the army. However, the newly appointed Chief of Army Staff is the staunch supporter of the king, and his royalty to the king has not been broken up yet. Most of the high-ranking army personnel are the kith and kin of the king. In such circumstances, no democracy-loving Nepalis could trust the oath taken by the army chief and the Prime Minister’s assurance of the Thai-style coup cannot happen in Nepal.
In fact, such a coup is possible in Nepal very much unless the king is removed. The king is there with all his political supporters such as Surya Bahadur Thapa, Sher Bahadur Deuba and certainly Girija Prasad Koirala. Mr. Thapa has a tiny political party separated from the Rastriya Prajatantra Party whereas Sher Bahadur Deuba and Girija Prasad Koirala head large parties. Their combined force is certainly a large political force in Nepal. Currently, Prime Minister Koirala has been trying to unite the breakaway party headed by former Prime Minister Deuba to his parent party if not he will bring the like-minded politicians to his fold for making a ceremonial king a reality. Thus, the king has not lost the political support, and the army is still there to support him. So, the reality of political coup is very much there. Therefore, Prime Minister Koirala’s saying that there is no possibility of a coup in Nepal is the reflection of his immature political analysis that has been plaguing Nepal for some time.
In addition, the US diplomat James Moriarty has been attempting to create an environment conducive to the king making a coup possible. Ambassador Moriarty has recently traveled to the western Nepal and inspected several army barracks and talked to army officials and politicians there. Thereafter, he met with the General Secretary of the Communist Party of Nepal-United Marxist Leninist (CPN-UML), Madhav Kumar Nepal, and then Prime Minister Koirala to brief about his visit to western Nepal. Ambassador Moriarty has been deadly against the current Government of the seven-party alliance (SPA) holding the peace talks with the CPN-Maoist unless the Maoists lay down the arms. If the peace process is broken up, the king will have every excuse to stage a coup again and bring the political chaos in Nepal most probably waging a war against the Maoists and against political parties and civil society leaders.
The current political reality in Nepal in addition to the potential coup is the Maoists have been holding most of the rural areas under their control and have been running a parallel government. They have the army called the People’s Liberation Army. They have strengthening it adding new recruits to it, and training them very hard to face any eventuality. They have started targeting the urban areas for takeover. Nepalis not trusting the SPA’s capability and willingness to resolve the political problems in Nepal have gradually seeing the Maoists as the alternative. They believe if the CPN-Maoist honors the four basic democratic values such as fundamental human rights, free and independent media, independent judiciary and good corruption-free governance based on the multi-party system there is nothing wrong to have it as well, as they have the CPN-UML.
The sorry part of the whole political story in Nepal is either the US Ambassador does not understand the political situation in Nepal or he deliberately ignores it knowingly or unknowingly making it possible to bring the undemocratic forces including the Maoists to the political eminence. He also does not realize the political settlement in Nepal is not possible without the SPA government sharing the power with the Maoists. As a result, he has been going around putting his confusing opinions about the Nepalese politics in the minds of Nepalese politicians and people. The irony is that even democracy-minded politician such as Sher Bahadur Deuba approves the undemocratic activities of the US Envoy.
The only way to settle the political problems in Nepal is to form an interim coalition government of all political parties and hold elections for a Constituent Assembly for formulating a people’s constitution. If it is delayed either the Maoists or the king will have a chance to grab the power making the political mess if not chaos in Nepal.
So, the democracy-friendly political parties such as the Nepali Congress parties of current Prime Minister Koirala and former Prime Minister Deuba, and the CPN-UML of Mr. Nepal should be concern for political dialogue with the CPN-Maoist rather than for listening to the US Ambassador James Moriarty who have been meddling the political situation in Nepal for various reasons.
Obviously, kings cannot co-exist with the powerful politicians particularly when such powerful politicians are at the helm of the state. Such politicians certainly overshadow the kings who also want to shine among the people. Such kings think they are above all the people, and they deserve power and reverence which they think will be waning if they see some politicians getting popularity among the people. Therefore, active kings sideline such politicians destroying the democratic system often demolishing the democratic institutions. We need to beware of such things.
Siddhi B. Ranjitkar has email address:
srilaxmi @ wlink.com.np for contacting him, and website www.siddhiranjitkar.com for his