The dangerous clashes seen last week and the fizzling out of reconciliation efforts in parliament to bring the two sides together have left the kingdom at an impasse. Currently, both sides appear to be preparing for a deepening conflict with authorities promising arrests and no compunction about charging activists while key protest leader, Anon Nampa, has been calling for protesters who can deal with tear gas.

Fears are growing among leaders of the anti-government protest movement that a coup may be on the cards as a dangerous standoff has developed between the sides after violent clashes last week. 

One of the key protest leaders Parit Chiwarak (centre) also known as ‘Penguin’ in a social media post on Sunday warned of the growing possibility of a coup d’état and called on protesters to come out again on to the streets if it happens. At the beginning of the month, the new army leader, General Narongpan Jitkaewthae (inset), ruled out such a possibility saying the chances were ‘zero’.

On Sunday, a leading protest leader on social media warned of the possibility of a coup d’état due to the growing tensions between the protest movement and the government.

Parit Chiwarak or the ‘Penguin’ is one of the main leaders who has emerged from this student-led movement since July. Mr Parit is the President of the Student Union of Thailand.

‘Smell’ of a coup says protest leader ‘Penguin’

Speaking on Facebook, he said that the political environment in recent days has changed remarkably so that many observers are comparing it to the days preceding the 2006 coup. He told his audience that the ‘smell’ of a coup was particularly strong right now and had grown in recent days.

The purpose of his message was to encourage the public to come out again to protest even if such an event were to take place.

Army chief ruled the prospect out in early November

The current Commander in Chief of the Thai Army, General Narongpan Jitkaewthae, earlier in November, ruled out any possibility of a coup saying the chances of the army taking such a step were ‘zero’.

On Monday, November 9th, General Narongpan, in response to reporter’s questions, said: ‘If everyone is sensible and considers the issue from all angles, then we will know what to do’. 

He later qualified this statement by ruling out the possibility of a coup.

Constant speculation since protests erupted again in July of a coup in spite of repeated official denials

Speculation on the subject of a coup has been a near-constant since the level and scale of street protests has been seen to grow without the government and the student-led movement showing any sign of compromise. 

Last week saw some of the most violent disturbances in four months of unrest with six people receiving gunshot wounds on Tuesday night and MPs being forced to leave parliament from the rear by riverboats to avoid clashes between helmeted anti-government protesters, police and counter-protesters.

House reconciliation efforts have fizzled out after some optimism at the beginning of the month with ‘compromise’ remarks from the Monarch

Efforts by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Chuan Leekpai, appear also to have not gained traction and appear to have fizzled out while the curt parliamentary rejection, on Wednesday last, of the one constitutional reform bill supported by street protesters, was another blow to hope of a compromise.

After the violence on Tuesday and vandalism to the Royal Thai Police headquarters on Wednesday, senior police officers and the Prime Minister, Prayut Chan ocha, have promised to take the gloves off when it comes to legal proceedings against all those involved who break the law.

The protests, which erupted in July, are seen as a continuation of protest activity which had arisen before the Covid 19 lockdown in March calling for a more progressive Thailand.

There did appear to be a spirit of optimism at the beginning of the month after His Majesty the King told foreign-based news organisations that Thailand was the land of ‘compromise’ but after last week’s clashes, matters have now reached another low point.

Another coup a ‘disaster’ for Thailand

Anon Nampa, a prominent human rights activist, and another leading figure in this protest movement, earlier in November described the potential outcome of another coup in Thailand as a disaster. By the end of this week, he was seeking protest volunteers who can combat tear gas.

Many academics and political scientists support the efforts by the House Speaker to seek reconciliation between the parties but the protest movement itself has remained resolutely aloof from the initiative and instead has stuck with its three demands that have emerged over the past few months of street strife.

These are the resignation of Prime Minister Prayut Chan ocha, substantial constitutional reform and changes to bring the monarchy within constitutional oversight provisions.

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