Thai crisis: Coup rumors and denials as the drama increases — As the plot thickens in this latest chapter of Thailand’s political/street protest drama, a plethora of rumors and denials over a possible military coup keep rising to the surface.
Conventional wisdom says the army couldn’t possibly think another coup would be anything but disastrous, considering all the turmoil that has resulted from the 2006 coup over the past seven years, as anyone who was here and can vaguely recall the 2010 red shirt protests and the accompanying military crackdown that finally ended it should know.
Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra on Tuesday flat-out said that the military will not stage a coup, despite rumors to the contrary, because all the armed forces commanders had learned lessons from the past, according to a Bangkok Post report.
She was responding to questions about rumors that her government would allow the army to stage a coup to end the political conflict and that there would be an election one year after that.
Now that’s an interesting twist, considering how the military is always viewed as on the side of the anti-government/anti-Thaksin protesters. Indeed, many have accused the protesters of deliberately trying to get the military to stage a coup.
The report ended with a rather strange response from army chief Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha on the coup rumor, which said “people should not be afraid of what was still invisible”. It said he refused to either confirm or deny the possibility of another coup.
Two red-shirt leaders recently said they believed there would “definitely” be an attempt to stage a coup before January 13 – the date the anti-government protesters plan their “Shutdown Bangkok” rallies.
The military has repeatedly denied this, saying the military personnel and equipment (including tanks, artillery and helicopters) being moved into Bangkok are for the upcoming annual Children’s Day event and for an Army Day parade, both of which are scheduled for the next week or two.
In further reference to a coup, Sunisa Letphakkawat, deputy spokeswoman for the ruling Pheu Thai Party, spoke of a “secret” plan by the anti-government protesters to lure the military into staging a coup, according to another Bangkok Post report today.
According to this report, she claimed the anti-government protesters (known as the People’s Democratic Reform Committee or PDRC) plan to create a pretext for the military to intervene, which involves the staging of a small, violent attack on the protesters, thus setting the coup in motion.
The report also said that Ms Sunisa added that the PDRC’s astrologer has singled out January 14 as an auspicious day for a military coup.
I realize this may sound rather bizarre to some people outside Thailand, but for those of us who live here it hardly raises an eyebrow.
PDRC leaders have, of course, denied this.
One final strange piece of information in this same article: A source close to the Ms Yingluck said she once told the army chief sarcastically to “go ahead with a coup” so she could be relieved of her burdens. The report said the army chief has not responded to this claim.
All of this strengthens my observation that Thailand puts on the very best and the most fascinating dramas when it comes to street protests and political chaos.
To be continued..