The last two coups in Thailand in 2006 and 2014 damaged the country economically as they caused Thailand to be isolated and lose valuable ground in trade talks and negotiations which to this day, puts the kingdom at a disadvantage. They also, by their nature, undermine investor confidence. This latest rumour has being heightened as fears are growing over a controversial student rally planned for Saturday 19th September in Bangkok.
Thailand’s Prime Minister, Prayut Chan ocha, was forced to cut short a press conference on Tuesday as a gung ho press posse insisted on pursuing the question of a possible coup d’état. It led to the PM’s abrupt departure from the briefing after he questioned the professionalism of reporters and the line of questioning was still pursued. Later, an army spokesman described online commentary of a possible coup linked with army training exercises as a ‘distortion’ while key army leaders denied any such possibility.
The Thai Prime Minister, Prayut Chan ocha was forced to storm out of a press conference earlier this week when pressed relentlessly by reporters who insisted on asking questions about coup rumours in the kingdom.
Thailand has seen no less than twenty-two coups since a bloodless revolution in the kingdom in 1932 transformed it into a constitutional monarchy.
Thirteen of the coups have been successful while nine have failed.
Fears grow over September 19th rally
Heightened tension and frenzied rumours have been sparked by what has been played down his week as routine army movements at a time when a large student rally is scheduled for Saturday the 19th September.
Students have been refused permission to use the Thammasat University campus after a controversial protest there on August 10th when rally speakers called for reform of Thailand’s monarchy.
On Thursday, key student leader, Parit Chiwarak, also known as the ‘Penguin’, vowed to defy management at the university and stage the latest rally at the venue.
‘Although executives of Thammasat University will not allow the venue at Tha Prachan to be used for the gathering, we will still hold the gathering at Thammasat,’ pronounced Mr Parit.
It is also understood that an alternative plan, being mooted by students, is to use Sanam Luang, an open space in front of the Grand Palace in central Bangkok. This may be equally problematic for authorities.
Coups have damaged Thailand economically
Economists in Thailand, in recent years, have been critical of the economic impact of the last two coups in 2006 and 2014, which while helping to quell political unrest in the kingdom, led to the country being placed in a somewhat isolated position within the international community for several years.
This has impacted Thailand’s economic development through its inability to sign and progress free trade deals and pacts with other countries, worldwide, notably with the European Union which recently signed a comprehensive free trade agreement with Thailand’s emerging and key competitor for investment in Southeast Asia, Vietnam.
Pushed Thailand closer to China
The coups, undoubtedly, also drove Thailand to become more closely aligned with China which does not place an emphasis on human rights and democracy.
This has begun to impact the kingdom adversely since the United States ratcheted up its trade campaign against Thailand’s northern neighbour, long seen by some Thai leaders as an unstoppable economic force.
The two coups also undermined investor confidence in Thailand which had been greatly enhanced by the landslide reelection of Thaksin Shinawatra as prime minister in February 2004.
At that time, it appeared to the world that democracy was finally working in Thailand and that coups really were a thing of the past.
The most recent coups in 2006 and 2014 were a response to divisive street protests which were deemed to have undermined the elected governments in 2006 of Thaksin Shinawatra and in 2014, that of his sister, Yingluck Shinawatra.
In both instances, the army, through its intervention, sought to bring back stability and order.
Prayut tells reporter to ‘go home’
On Tuesday, the PM, in his own inimitable style, asked one persistent reporter to ‘go home’ when confronted by a question relating to swirling online rumours.
’Hey! Go on, go home,’ General Prayut called out.
In recent months, the prime minister has repeatedly emphasised that his government respects the freedom of the press. General Prayut regularly allows reporters questions but has also regularly used the opportunity to make his point in return.
On Tuesday, he criticised reporters who insisted on follow up questions.
Reports of a coup appear to have started from an announcement by the army on August 28th the that there would be troop and military vehicle movements in key provinces including Bangkok, Phitsanulok, Lopburi, Chiang Mai, Roi Et, Ubon Ratchathani and Kanchanaburi.
Please read our earlier report:
Coup reports were later emphatically denied and quashed by Army Commander and Chief General Apirat Kongpsompong.
Army general promises to give more notice and context to the public in future army drills
Army General Nattapon Srisawad, who works closely with General Prayut within the Centre for Covid 19 Situation Administration, later clarified details regarding the troop movements and exercises.
He also proposed that army commanders should take greater care at explaining such moves to the public to avoid panic or anxiety. Such an instruction was also issued by General Apirat.
General Prayut tells reporters their questions were ‘sloppy journalism’ before he walked out
However, this was before the PM walked out of the meeting with reporters, at one point, berating them for sloppy journalism.
‘It’s sloppy of you to ask questions like this,’ he said. The PM asked the press to tell him exactly who was staging a coup? When they replied, the army, he questioned their professionalism.
The Prime Minister, General Prayut, who is also Defence Minister, led the last army coup on the 22nd May 2014 in order to bring to an end months of chaotic street protests that had paralysed Thailand.
On Tuesday, before he stormed out, he assured the media that his government was working towards assisting small business people and towards the regeneration of employment for those who have suffered because of the Covid 19 economic crisis.
He also dismissed speculation of future government cash handouts to the public.
An army spokesman, Colonel Winthai Suvare, later confirmed that the military movements were simply a training exercise but described the speculation online relating to them including user videos and commentaries as a distortion of the facts.