Thailand: curbing the colonels

With so many trouble spots and crises in the news these days, the attempted military coup in Thailand is not apt to be on most people's list of urgent reading. But it deserves mention. If nothing else, it reminds us that Thailand is the key state in Southeast Asia's confrontation with communist Vietnam. The collapse there of a coup by young colonels is therefore cause for satisfaction -- both from the standpoint of the country's posture abroad and its internal stability.

Not that any dramatic changes would have followed if the rebellious forces led by Gen. Sant Chipatima had succeeded. The dissident "young Turks" are also pro-Western. Their rebellion was not over issues ideology but over what they regarded as the slow pace of economic progress. No doubt their personal ambitions also came into play. In any case, Prime Minister Prem Tinsulanonda quickly battened down the loyalty of commanders in the provinces, won the King's support, swept into Bangkok with his troops, and the rebels surrendered, with little loss of life.

The Thai people themselves can be gratified by the outcome. Military coups are a traditional and frequent means of transferring power in Thailand, and many Thais feel their country has gone beyond this disruptive way of governing. We hope so. Moving in the direction of an orderly and stable parliamentary system should enhance the country's internal strength and thereby serve as a bulwa rk against communist subversion.

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