The middle class radicals who have forced the end to democratically-elected governments* in Thailand have not done Thailand any long-term favours. Recent events in fact constitute a middle-class coup that has driven a popularly elected government from office. That is true even if the government was not entirely saintly.
When I lived in Thailand 20 years ago there were periodic military coups (2 in the 8 years I was there) which shuffled the deck chairs and occasionally produced significant violence. At about the time of my departure there was the optimistic feeling that the military would occupy a more traditional military role that largely lay outside of politics and business. For a few years this seemed to happen and the strong growth that Thailand enjoyed continued unabated up until the 1997 financial crash.
Now PM Somchai's party has been found guilty of electoral fraud and dissolved. Somchai has been barred from politics for five years and Deputy Prime Minister Chaowarat Chandeerakul has become acting prime minister. Anti-government protesters have declared victory and say they will vacate the airports that they occupied to force this issue. It is difficult to judge the extent to which the Thai military passively stood to one side to allow this to happen.
The best way for the Thai people to strengthen their democracy is to vote out poor politicians at election time. Coups whether launched by the military or by a Bangkok-based middle class are a short-cut that will never be a successful longer-term solution.
The Thais are one of the most pleasant of peoples. Friendliness is ingrained into the national character. But there is a dark side to the country - high murder rates and a proclivity to settle everyday disputes with the gun - that cannot be ignored. The current elitist coup may settle some immediate political scores but has disinfranchised a majority of the Thai population. It is a dangerous precedent that could lead to significant violence. Of course I hope I am wrong in this but I fear I will not be.
And of course the real development problems that Thailand still continues to face will not be improved by having a permanently threatened democracy.
*The recent PM (Mr Somchai Wongsawat) was admittedly nominated by the Thai Parliament but his party (and that of his predescessor Mr Thaksin), repeatedly were endorsed by a majority of the population.