mead cohen berger shevtsova garfinkle michta grygiel blankenhorn
Game of Thrones
The Battle for Thailand's Future

Explosions rock the restive provinces of southern Thailand. Civilian politicians are jailed by leaders of a military putsch. The senate has been dissolved. Anti-coup protestors gather defiantly, with police unsure whether to beat them back or stand aside. The King has apparently endorsed the coup, the twelfth during his reign so far. (Attempted coups that did not get royal approval all failed.) On the famous Democracy Monument in central Bangkok a sign hangs: “closed for maintenance.”

The leaders of Thailand’s coup moved quickly to quell dissent. Leaders of anti-coup protests were rounded up or contained. Unruly farmers, angry that the government had failed to live up to its agreement to pay top dollar for the rice harvest, were quieted with cash payments. Most important of all was the King’s endorsement.

But many farmers are still angry about the coup, and sporadic protests still erupt despite a heavy police and army presence. It’s not clear how the King truly feels about this turn of events. Meanwhile, the economy is tanking and rebels in southern Thailand have stepped up their long-running insurgency with a spate of bombings in the past few days. In spite of the military’s assurances to the contrary, Thailand is anything but calm.

The main question, as the Economist notes, is this: “Ask not whether it [the military] will quit ousting governments and installing their replacements, but how: cruelly, unleashing the sort of horrors that would set the country back many more years; or by compromise and deal-making?”

The coup is the latest development in the battle over Thailand’s future. As the King’s health deteriorates, the fight between Thailand’s disparate political factions over who will control the succession process has intensified. The crown prince, unfortunately, does not command the love and affection that his father does. For the time being, the Thai military is in control of a perilous situation; Gen. Chan-ocha, who has been described as “ruthless,” has said that the coup will become “more strict” and will continue “indefinitely.” He warned Thais against creating “further problems” and gave no indication of when the country would eventually hold elections or whether parliament would be reinstated. “I can do everything,” he said ominously.

Features Icon
show comments
© The American Interest LLC 2005-2016 About Us Masthead Submissions Advertise Customer Service