Military seizes control of Thailand in Coup d’etat

It was reported that today on the 22nd of May 2014, that the Thai military took control of the country. CNN has stated that CNN TV has been taken off the air in Thailand and that the “people of Thailand deserve to know what is happening in their own country, and CNN is committed to telling them”. According to a report by BBC News Asia, army chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha said that the constitution had been suspended but vowed to restore order and enact political reforms.

A nationwide curfew has been put in place between the hours of 22:00 and 05:00 where no one is allowed to leave their homes, all television broadcasting has been suspended and political gatherings have been banned.

Thailand has experienced 32 coups since 1932 and over the past months political turmoil has reached boiling point. Unrest began last year in 2013 when then-Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra attempted to dissolve the lower house of parliament which many saw as a gross abuse of power. This view was justified earlier in May with the court-ordered removal of Yingluck for abusing her position as Prime Minister. Al Jazeera has reported that demonstrating protesters had been cleared away from various sites around Thailand. Tensions between “Red Shirts” and “Yellow Shirts”, so named for the colour of their attire, led to the military imposing martial law on Tuesday. The “Red Shirts” support the government that has been in power which tend to be supported by the majority of the population of Thailand, mostly situated in rural areas. The “Yellow Shirts” are in anti-government and are mostly supported by the urban population of Thailand. The “Yellow Shirts” are of the view that the previous Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who is the brother of Yingluck Shinawatra, still has too much influence on politics and that the “Shinawatra legacy” is one rife with corruption.

It is unclear what will happen to these opposing factions now that the military has taken control. Many suspect that they will support the “Yellow Shirts”. This could lead to another “Red Shirt” rebellion similar to the one that took place in 2010 in which 90 people were killed in Bangkok’s central business district.

The story continues.

UPDATE: US Sends Troops to Nigeria

On Wednesday the 21st April 2014, the White House announced that 80 members of the United States armed forces had been deployed to Chad to aid in the search of kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls. These personnel, according to CNN, “…will support the operation of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft for missions over northern Nigeria and the surrounding area”.

Pentagon spokesperson Rear Admiral John Kirby stated in an interview on CNN’s “The Lead with Jake Tapper” that the troops deployed were not combat infantry.

“These folks are there to support the reconnaissance mission,” he said.

He then went on to explain the geographical challenges the landscapes of Nigeria, Chad and Cameroon present. Boko Haram militants may be dispersed in an area the size of West Virginia between the borders of these three countries which would make a ground-based search nearly impossible. Adm. Kirby attributes friendly ties with the government of Chad as to why troops will be stationed there. An unarmed predator drone will be accompanying these personnel but the United States already has a drone base in Niger, a deal signed in January of 2013 according to The Times. The map below displays all known US military bases on the African continent as of 2013.

 The fact that many people are not even aware of this vast military presence does bode well for the continent. The case studies of US military involvement actually benefiting any country are few and far between although some may argue differently.

The vastness of this presence is perhaps merely suggestive of the vastness of the United States armed forces which has the largest navy and air force in the world with almost 1.5 million active personnel. Based on statistics from 2009, if one were to add up all the militaries of Africa, a continent of 1 billion people, and compare them to that of the United States. Without factoring in equipment, training and machinery, the number of active military personnel in Africa make up almost a fifth.

When thinking about how many people the US war machine employs, it becomes clear that in actual fact the United States has to go to war and they have to do so constantly. If not hundreds of thousands of people would be without a job in a country only just recovering from a brutal economic recession. War brings money into the United States economy in many ways. US arms manufactures benefit from the constant need for weapons, unfavourable governments with unfavourable economic policies can be removed and replaced, but by also employing so many people the United States has found a way to use war as a means of uplifting their own citizens at a grassroots level.

As the world finally shifts its gaze to the plight of Africa and the calls of help no longer seem to fall on deaf ears, what will truly come from an increased United States military presence in Africa? What are your thoughts? Please share your views by clicking the speech bubble above.

 

“The Enemy of Mine Enemy is My Friend” – Arab Proverb

Dated 12 March 2014

As tensions over the disputed Crimean Peninsula in Eastern Europe escalate, the involvement of the United States and Russia has only seen the situation deteriorate further.  Even after Ukrainian opposition leaders signed an EU brokered peace deal on the 21st of February 2014, according to The Guardian, stability in the region seems to be an ever-distant ideal as Russia sends troops into the Ukraine.

I believe however, that the term “Russian Invasion” of the Ukraine, commonly heard in passing conversation, is not an accurate description of the situation unfolding. This view perhaps suits Western powers that appear to be in support of the Ukrainian opposition who have taken power from former-president, Victor Yanukovych. The most hotly contested area, the Port of Sevastopol, has been leased to the Russians until 2042 and has been used as a Russian port for the past 200 years, according to David Stern of The New York Times. This arrangement is largely a product of post-Cold War negotiations between, the then, Soviet Union and Ukraine. It now becomes clear why Russia would send troops to a strategic base under its control in a country that has experienced a change in leadership. Military intervention or intimidation is inexcusable but I think more focus should be placed on exactly who Western powers are choosing to support as well.

One of the three main parties of the Ukrainian opposition is known as “Svoboda”. On their website it is stated that it is a “Ukrainian nationalist political party” that is made up of three groups. One of these groups is called the “Veterans of Afghanistan”.  Many Ukrainian soldiers fought for the Soviets against the US backed Taliban in the Soviet war in Afghanistan of 1979 which lasted almost a decade. One of the other groups that make up Svoboda is the “Student Brotherhood” which was founded by current leader of Svoboda; Oleh Tyahnybok. Upon doing a bit of research, I quickly discovered that Tyahnybok is not only a hardline fascist, but anti-Semitic as well. Seumas Milne stated in an opinion piece published by The Guardian: “Oleh Tyahnybok claims that a ‘Moscow-Jewish mafia’ controls Ukraine”. Milne also mentions that Tyahnybok led a march of 15,000 people in Lviv in memory of Stepan Bandera whose forces fought with the Nazis and aided in the killing of Jews during World War Two. It seems strange then that United States senator, John McCain, would share a platform with Tyahnybok in Kiev considering Svoboda’s current leadership and its history. But when you consider his comment made to CNN’s “The Lead with Jake Tapper” while in Kiev, it becomes clear that perhaps the United States is prepared to align itself with any faction that opposes its enemies. McCain said: “Watch out for Vladimir Putin because he will try to make mischief because he believes that Ukraine is part of Russia.”

US senator John McCain meets with Svoboda's Oleh Tyahnybok

US senator John McCain meets with Svoboda’s Oleh Tyahnybok

Oleh Tyahnybok performs the fascist salute.

Oleh Tyahnybok performs the fascist salute.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As mentioned above this is not the first case of the United States supporting somewhat questionable parties in pursuit of its own ideals. It takes only a little digging to find out how the United States and Britain not only armed but also trained the Taliban which is now one of the most feared terrorist organisations in the world. Even post-Cold War, US involvement in Libya and Syria, amongst others, has been put under scrutiny as the situation in both countries is far from improved and Islamist fundamentalists take advantage of the deteriorating situation.

As the people of Crimea vote for their independence from both Russia and the Ukraine, we should ask ourselves why this vote is not being recognised by the Western world. Would this not be the quickest solution for peace? We should also ask ourselves why Moscow refuses to recognise the current leadership of the Ukraine. It seems that questions answered only lead to more questions.

What are your thoughts? Please click the speech bubble above if there is anything you would like to share.