Above: On all the channels now—it reads “National Peace Keeping Council (NPKC)”
Coup declared – The Nation, May 22, 2014
…”In order for the country to return to normal quickly the National Peace Keeping Committee comprised of the army, the Thai armed forces, the Royal Air Force and the police need to seize power as of May 22 at 4.30 pm,” army chief Prayut Chan-O-Cha said.
He asked the public to go on their daily lives as usual.
The army is taking control of the government to restore order and push through political reform…
* Constitution temporarily suspended, government sacked, but senate, courts, and independent agencies still functioning. This still points to the same plan that has been in place since late last year—demonstrating that Thaksin influence is finished.
* It is suspected that peace talks were meant to lure leaders into once place–PM staying away from meeting makes more sense.
* The 2006 coup was noted as being too soft and not eliminating Thaksin influence. This new one might include resolve to harshly deal with extremists on both sides.
* There will be more of a demand than ever from the Thaksin political clique for elections and a return to democracy as well as a fresh effort to focus on the military as a villain.
From the military perspective, the coup is meant to prove to politicians that Thaksin and his money are finished. It will be interesting to see if the message is getting through (or being believed). This is also the reason no elections can be held anytime soon—elections would show Thaksin can return.
In a bid to be tough we might expect the army to go back to the post-1991 coup tactic of mass confiscation of politicians’ assets. They have to destroy the vast business network his family still controls to be successful in rooting out his influence.
What is a Thai coup like?
* A note on the nature of coups in Thailand (same sort of info we gave during the 2006 coup): typically all banking and ATMs are operating, business goes on as usual (sometimes with relief as coups break political impasses), and most people never see any military vehicles which are usually only in the far downtown government areas.
This is important to explain to Westerners who associate coups with a “rebellion” when soldiers fight each other and a nation is paralyzed. A Thai coup is the army exercising its role as a “protector of the nation” against what they interpret as politicians who are tainted for being elected. Politics is seen as dirty and self-serving.
While this is a broad explanation, this overall viewpoint underpins the dynamics of what is going on now. The protests and negotiations will be used to prove that this cycle was occurring again and that the army “had no choice.”
That is not to say that the army will be successful. History is shown that a quick and painless coup eventually leads to overreach and incompetence and sometimes bloodshed. However, C-in-C Prayuth seems to have an uncommonly deft touch in dealing in political situations—particularly portraying the army as neutral (when they clearly have not been). His leadership will certainly be tested in the coming months.
Necessities in Bangkok
* No official word on this, but in previous curfew situations, the army looked the other way if tourists had to travel from airport to a hotel or vice versa.
* All Thai airports operating as usual despite coup.
* Tourist areas outside of Bangkok have usually operated as normal during coups and curfews and other civil strife.
* Military issues curfew from 10pm to 5am.
* BTS and MRT considering stopping operation before midnight. Central department stores to close at 8pm.
* New announcement: tourists allowed to travel if necessary after curfew, hospital personnel, patients, aviation workers allowed to travel as well.
* Closure of educational institutes nationwide on Friday (May 23).
2Bangkok.com Editor Ron Morris’ book, The Thai Book: A Field Guide to Thai Political Motivations, is available in the Kindle Store.