Bouquets for a coup d'etat
Bangkok, Thailand
By Eric Ellis, Fortune contributor

(Fortune Magazine) -- If there's such a thing as the right way to topple a democratically elected government, then Thailand's generals might be just the strongmen to teach that lesson. After they moved against Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra on Sept. 19, there was no bloodshed, only a brief wobble for the Thai baht and the stock market, and lots of celebratory street parties. Soldiers were showered with pink roses. The perfunctory media takeover resulted in radio stations playing easy-listening tracks instead of martial music- though coup leader Gen. Sonthi Boonyaratglin drew the line at the scantily clad go-go dancers sponsored by a Bangkok radio station to entertain bored troops guarding strategic installations.

The junta even managed to open Bangkok's new airport ten days later - with only a few bags lost in transition. Thaksin watched his swift demise on TV from New York City, where he was preparing to address the United Nations, his fate sealed when Thailand's much-loved King Bhumipol gave the junta his imprimatur. The billionaire former cop caved in with barely a whimper, then exiled himself to his luxury London flat. He won't have to worry much about London's expensive prices. It was the controversial $4 billion tax-free sale in January of his telecommunications and TV company, Shin Corp., to the Singapore government's Temasek Holdings that sparked the Thai turmoil that ultimately led to the coup.

It turned out to be a spectacular misjudgment for the normally careful Temasek CEO, Ho Ching, wife of Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. Shin shares have fallen 43% since the deal was signed, and Temasek will now endure a potentially embarrassing probe by the new regime into Thaksin's finances that threatens asset seizures, deal cancellation, and large fines. Smooth as silk for Thailand perhaps, but rather less so for Singapore Inc.  Top of page