Royal Thai Army Declares A Coup, And Here's What That Means For The Embattled Country
The military is officially taking over Thailand's government with the country's Royal Thai Army chief declaring a coup Thursday. Gen Prayuth Chan-ochaa announced the decision on national television following repeated statements over the past few days that said otherwise. Pressures escalated Tuesday when the military implemented martial law, though the same chief told citizens not to panic — it wasn't a takeover. Unfortunately, it kind of is: The army is seizing power to reportedly restore order and execute swift changes.
"In order for the situation to return to normal quickly and for society to love and be at peace again ... and to reform the structure of the political, economic and social structure, the military needs to take control of power," Prayuth said, according to Reuters.
The coup's announcement comes after soldiers took the leader of anti-government protests, Suthep Thaugsuban, out of a meeting aimed at finding a solution. Nearly half a year of political unrest led up to Thursday's declaration, though many were already skeptical of the army's insistence that they were only trying to maintain order. After all, the country is no stranger to coup d'etats. Most recently, opposing forces ousted Thailand's prime minister, Yingluck Shinawatra, after she was found guilty for abusing her power. Nine other cabinet members were stripped of their positions.
Shinawatra's exiled billionaire brother was also ousted in a military coup in 2006, and there have been at least 18 attempted takeovers since 1932. But what will this latest shift in authority mean for Thailand?
Some experts argue that the declaration of martial law signaled a possible resolution, at least with the military's help. However, its shift from martial law to a full-blown takeover places it it against the country's constitution, a position that is sure to be challenged.
"If the army can play a mediating role in search of a compromise that satisfies all sides then we can find a way out of this crisis," Thitinan Pongsudhirak, a political science professor, told CNN. "But if it does not, if the army plays a partisan role, then we can see a lot more crises in Thailand."
The current coup is unlikely to provide the prompt changes in government that demonstrators are calling for, at least in the short term, since Thailand has already been under a caretaker government, or temporary rule, for quite some time. What does seem certain however, is the continuation of brewing unrest, with protesters likely to challenge the most recent curfew imposed by military officials and rising concerns over confrontation from opposition forces.