Thai military quashes coup rumors yet again

Originally published at Siam Voices on April 6, 2011

Thailand’s military has yet again denied any rumors of a coup and that the armed forces would not intervene in an upcoming election later this year. After a monthly meeting of senior military officers, in a joint statement on Tuesday supreme commander Songkitti Jaggabatara, in attendance of army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha, navy commander Kamthorn Phumhiran and air force chief Itthaporn Subhawong, said:

Gen Songkitti said there would “definitely not be a coup”. The armed forces operate under the constitution and support democratic rule, he said. […]

Any military unit which moves troops out of barracks without permission will be deemed to have committed insurrection. Feel free to file complaints against any soldier who conducts any political activity to pressure you. If there are grounds to the complaints, I will order an inquiry,” he said before his announcement was broadcast yesterday. […]

Stop linking the armed forces [to the coup rumours]. Don’t ever separate the military from the people,” he said, adding that the military would work hand in hand with members of the public to ensure the country moves forward.

Military leaders unified against a coup“, Bangkok Post, April 6, 2011

Some noteworthy points here: This is yet another denial of a coup rumors, which have boiled up quite frequently in recent months, mostly fueled by the political opposition. The Thai Report has counted 11 denials so far in this year alone, which given the circumstances not too surprising with an election expected in the near future and the burning question what the military will do if the opposition Puea Thai Party wins and potentially swaps out high-ranking officers.

Some political observers […] reckon that a Puea Thai-led administration may have more than a few scores to settle. One of them is to remove any standing legacy of the 2006 coup and, if that is true, Gen Prayuth could be shown the door if the party makes its way into Government House. […]

The moment of truth for Gen Prayuth would come in September, which is reshuffle time and the most crucial career juncture for many ambitious soldiers.

This year, many major military posts will be left vacant. Supreme Commander Songkitti Jaggabatara and defence permanent secretary Kittipong Ketkowit will go into mandatory retirement, paving the way for a potential shake-up where other active top brass could ”move around”.

Gen Prayuth, who retires in three years, may be moved to succeed either Gen Songkitti or Gen Kittipong. But that depends on how strong a sentiment for reconciliation there is prevailing. If there comes a need for a ”colour-neutral” chief, then Gen Prayuth may have to move aside.

Whose finger on the trigger?“, Bangkok Post, March 26, 2011

The article goes on to mention that the previous Puea Thai-incarnations during the Samak and Somchai governments have made sure to maintain a good relationship to the military (which in the end didn’t help though) as does the current government with granting military toys (see previous coverage here and here) among other things. It’d be indeed interesting to see if a PT-led government would uproot all the officers loyal to Prayuth, a move to prevent dissent against him, and plant their people instead.

But for now, sadly the rule of thumb again is, with such a re-politicized military, a coup is never fully out of the question.

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