Thailand’s Groundhog Day: Rumors of a military coup

Originally published at Siam Voices on February 2, 2011 Thailand faces an increased amount of rumors about a military coup again in the last few weeks with the latest being spewed out by Admiral Bannawit Kengrian:

The countdown to another military coup has begun, former deputy permanent secretary for defence Admiral Bannawit Kengrian said on Tuesday. [...] He said there were several reasons for the military to stage a coup.

There were many failures in the political sector. The people could no longer rely on politicians., independent agencies were weak, people banned from politics could still direct political activities and the Election Commission could not do anything about them.

Many groups of people of different political colours were out on the streets. Seeing no way out, the people would look to the military to break the impasse.

"Bannawit: Coup countdown has begun", Bangkok Post, February 1, 2011

So far, so predictable. The scenario Bannawit draws here has been going on for months now and with the red shirts regularly rallying and the yellow shirts now camping out for over a week now, things don't seem to change. But here is where his hypothesis beings to fall apart:

"The situation in this country is no different to that in Egypt. The people can no longer tolerate the political system and their protests are always fruitless. So they turn to the military," Adm Bannawit said. (...)

But from his experience in taking part in the 2006 coup, and several previous ones, and his personal acquaintance with nearly every politician and military officer, there were signs of a coup.

This time, it was the people that would join hands with the military to revolutionize the country and to stop the wicked cycle of politics. (...)

"Bannawit: Coup countdown has begun", Bangkok Post, February 1, 2011

It seems to be popular at the moment to draw parallels to the popular revolts in Tunisia and Egypt with Thailand. I hope to elaborate on this topic at a later point, but I can already say that this assertion doesn't really hold up. I'm especially certain that only a marginal size will side with the Thai army and I'm highly doubtful that the army is a constructive element to break free a political deadlock - at least he wasn't talking about democracy.

Also mentioned earlier, the rumors of a imminent coup are being thrown around in an almost inflationary amount in the last few weeks, almost a carbon copy of last year as pointed out by fellow Siam Voices writer Newley Purnell. It begun with red shirt co-leader and Puea Thai MP Jatuporn Prompan drawing his conclusions from a meeting of high-ranking military officers, then all sides (even his own party) denying his claims, followed up by a soothsayer (who are unfortunately still getting way too much attention, especially on political 'predictions') 'predicting' a 'drastic change' in April or May with a new prime minister, whose initial is allegedly 'P' or 'D', followed by an annoyed commander-in-chief Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha rejecting all rumors. And then there's Bannawit's recent prediction:

A countdown had begun to a coup, which could come in a few weeks, not a year or months.

"Bannawit: Coup countdown has begun", Bangkok Post, February 1, 2011

While it should be widely known by now that a coup is hardly the all-solving carte blanche, the mere fact that these rumors are flying around persistently indicates a sad reality that given the increased influence and the revitalized politicization of the military since 2006, another coup is never fully out of question.