from Asia Unbound

No Going Back Now for Thailand: Coup Coming?

January 10, 2014

A man holds up a poster during an anti-violence campaign in central Bangkok on January 10, 2014.(Soe Zeya Tun/Courtesy Reuters)
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The planned shutdown for Bangkok on Monday Thai time, which is supposed to paralyze the capital, is but the latest in a series of anti-government protests held around the capital. But as I wrote earlier this week, all sides now are becoming more extreme, and I see no reason to think that this week will be peaceful. Instead, both the hard-core of the protest movement and some officers among the pro-red shirt police force are itching for an open conflict in the streets. This, I think, is likely to occur next week, and I expect both some of the protesters and many of the most aggressive—and, frankly, stupid—police to break out weaponry, including potentially even live ammunition.

This violent confrontation, of course, is exactly what the leaders of the anti-government demonstrations want, and not what the caretaker government wants—or what most Thais, including most Bangkokians want. (A fine recent article in Khao Sod shows that most Thais do not want this kind of confrontation in Bangkok.) But at this point the caretaker government has less and less control over the hardest-core elements of the police force, and though the Yingluck government thus far has exercised a high level of restraint in dealing with the protesters, basically allowing the demonstrators to do largely whatever they want, I don’t know that the government can stop the coming confrontation.

And the end game, I think, is going to be a coup. I did not think so a month ago, but it seems highly likely now. A coup would be a tragedy, and even more dangerous and retrograde than in 2006, but it seems to be coming now.