Dictators' Delight

It was Thailand's 18th coup d'état since 1932, bloodless for a change, and its leader General Sonthi Boonyaratglin was at pains to present it as the kindest, cuddliest one yet?a "soft coup," it's being called. While smiling Thais handed flowers to soldiers, their Asian neighbors had more somber anniversaries to consider. Eighteen years to the day before the Thai coup, Burmese soldiers shot dead hundreds of prodemocracy protesters in Rangoon; 16 years before that, late dictator Ferdinand Marcos put the Philippines under martial law; and another seven years earlier, a general called Suharto seized power in Indonesia. Burmese and Filipinos, in...

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