“Anything can happen,” Thailand’s powerful army chief said demurely at a news conference in Bangkok when reporters asked him if a coup was possible. He went on to say that “we are trying to do the right thing, in a peaceful way,” but that “the door was neither open nor closed.”Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra tried to head off the protests that swept through Bangkok in recent weeks by announcing elections to come in early February, but as protests continue and grow more violent the army chief seemed to suggest that the military might intervene before elections can be held.Reuters has the story:
The protesters want the suspension of what they say is a fragile democracy subverted by Thaksin [brother to Yingluck] to enhance the business empires of his family and friends, using cheap healthcare, micro-loans and state subsidies to buy off the poor.They draw strength from the south, as well as Bangkok’s establishment of old-money families, the royalist bureaucracy and generals who despise Thaksin’s rise.
The protestors’ wider aim, as Reuters notes, is to undercut the influence of the Shinawatra family and its allies and many supporters in the Thailand’s rural, agricultural areas, by establishing an unelected “people’s council” to run the country. The protestors argue that the Shinawatra family’s subsidies for farmers have put the government’s finances on the brink of ruin. Indeed, it appears that Bangkok is struggling to find the money to buy rice at favorable prices as promised.The longer the crisis continues, the worse the situation gets for the Shinawatras. Thailand’s economy is struggling: the baht fell to a four-year low this week and the stock market slipped after several people, including a policeman, were killed during street protests. The Shinawatra clan is struggling to follow through on promises to its rural supporters, but so far the opposition hasn’t been able to take advantage. Thailand is divided and its future uncertain, and at the moment no one seems to have the support or the ideas to solve the crisis.