In his blog for Reuters,longtime journalist Andrew Marshall offers an excellent examination of why, despite the Thai military’s promises that it has returned to the barracks for good, another coup is hardly out of the question in Thailand. The leaders of the Thai armed forces have in recent weeks been on a publicity campaign, telling any reporter who would listen that there will be no coup, even if the election this summer goes against the ruling Democrat Party, the favorite of the military/royalist/elite establishment.
Don’t be so sure. For one, such promises do not mean much: In 2006, not long before the last coup, senior army officers also were publicly promising that the military would not intervene in politics. The army clearly fears that, if the opposition were to win a victory in the elections, it might cashier many senior officers, as former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra had tried to do, and that the opposition cannot be trusted to manage a possible royal succession in the manner that archroyalists want. To try and ensure the outcome they want, military officers have been twisting the arms of small parties behind the scenes to join the Democrat Party in a post-election coalition, if necessary. Still, if that does not work, the army could exercise other options.
As Marshall notes, other factors are at work too. The Thai military, like some other Thai elites, views Thailand as a kind of special country, a place where trends in world affairs and international politics somehow do not apply, and which outsiders cannot understand. So, Marshall notes, despite the fact that the post-coup government in 2006 and 2007 was a shambles, incapable of managing Thailand’s sophisticated economy, and the fact that, in the Middle East today, autocrats are showing that they cannot simply call out the troops, murder their people, and expect the international community to stand by, Thailand’s military believes that, if necessary, it could stage a coup, crack down on dissent, and get away with it. Maybe. But Ali Saleh and Muammar Qadaffi might tell them that it’s not so easy anymore.