Thailand 2014 Coup: Expect for the Worst

SIU’s analysis on Thailand 2014 Coup Detat. As 22th May 2014, 21:00 local time (GMT+7)

Photo from @MyNameTai
The Coup announcement, captured from TV by @MyNameTai

The situation is still confusing. At 21:00 local time (GMT+7), we can summarize the situation as below:

What’s Happened

  • A coup by The Army Chief, General Prayuth Chan-ocha.
  • Political leaders from both side are ‘in control/custody’ by the army. The list includes Suthep Thaugsuban (PDRC leader), Abhisit Vejjajiva (Ex-PM and opposition leader), key ministers in Pheu Thai government, 5 key red shirt leaders.
  • Some red shirt leaders throughout the country are in custody.
  • Acting PM Niwatthamrong Boonsongpaisan is missing. As we know currently, he is not in the army control.
  • 2007 Constitution is now defunct. The Cabinet is gone.
  • The junta keep the senate and the justice courts.
  • All TV stations are under controlled. Normal programs are replaced by military graphic.

What We Don’t Know Yet

  • Whereabout of Niwatthamrong, also Yingluck Shinawatra.
  • It seems that Shinawatra family members fled the kingdom. No confirmation yet.
  • Nothing from Thaksin yet.

Analysis

We already warned the ‘bad scenario’ in our previous analysis and now it happens.

It seems that from the conservatives’ viewpoint, the stake is too high so they can not lose this war at all cost. That’s why this coup happens. The martial law on 20th May is a testbed for today’s coup. We think the coup has been planned long before and the martial law is just a ‘lead signal’ for the eventual coup.

The big picture of this coup is ‘conservative forces consolidate their power’. The red shirts movement is too dangerous for the ‘sake of the Kingdom’ and needs to be gotten rid of. The ‘hard liner’ generals now run the show and we should expect the bad outcome.

What to Expect

This list is just our quick analysis from today’s information. We are very pessimistic right now for the situation.

  • We should see the new PM soon (within the next 3-4 days). The senate will act for the full parliament and nominate a new PM.
  • Possible PM candidates are General Prawit Wongsuwan, ex-Army chief and Palakorn Suwanrath, a Privy Councilor. Both are closed to the palace.
  • The new junta government will run the country for 1-2 years. Possibly longer than previous Surayud Chulanont government (2006-2007).
  • New Constitution will be drafted, we might call it 2015 Constitution. It will be more draconian than 2007 Constitution.
  • PDRC, Democrat Party, and all anti-Pheu Thai leaders will be released in the next few days. Pheu Thai and red leaders will be in custody longer.
  • The short term (1-3 months) outcome will be peaceful but it’s temporary peace.
  • The longer term (3-6 months and more) looks bad. Red Shirts will go underground. We might see some unrests.
  • The situation after that depends on the structure of the new Constitution and the call for ‘true democratic’ general election.
  • If the Constitution is undemocratic and the election is postponed indefinitely, the country (especially the junta government) will face the insurgency in North and Northeastern which is the red shirts’ bases.
  • The worst possible scenario is a chronic civil war. Same as Thailand’s ongoing Deep South Insurgency.

We will update our analysis frequently as the situation changes.

Thailand Under Martial Law: What’s Next?

SIU’s analysis on the declaration of martial law on 20th May 2014.

Prayuth Chan-oha

Suthep Thaugsuban, the leader of PDRC, announced last weekend that this weekend will be the ‘final showdown’ of his 6-month protest. While Thais keep watching what the end will be, last night at 3pm the military made its move with the declaration of martial law.

What’s happened so far

The martial law prohibits any political gathering in the country and allow the military to ‘cease and investigate’ anything they consider important.

At 12pm of 20th May 2014, local time, Thai Royal Army led by Commander-in-Chief General Prayuth Chan-oha has announced several things:

  • Thailand is now under martial law, nationwide.
  • The foundation of Peace Keeping Command Center (PKCC), the new internal security command center under the martial law. Gen. Prayuth also hold the commander title of PKCC.
  • The dissolution of Centre for the Administration of Peace and Order (CAPO), the internal security command center of the Phue Thai government under the Internal Security Act. All the forces under CAPO will transfer to PKCC.
  • TV and radio stations need to live broadcast PKCC announcements on army request. They are also prohibited to spread ‘controversial news’.
  • Political satellite TV and radio stations from both political sides are suspended. 10 satellite TV stations are suspended.
  • Heads of government agencies and independent agencies need to report to the military command throughout the country.
  • Seize the government house from PCRC’s occupation.

At the moment, PDRC announced that they will stay in place (Ratchadamnoen Avenue in central Bangkok) to ‘wait and see’ what PKCC will do for today. The Red Shirt protesters will keep staying at Utthayan Avenue outside Bangkok as well.

Analysis

In theory, the declaration of martial law is lawful. The army insisted that it is not the coup detat and the current acting government still remains legally.

In practice, while it is not the ‘official coup’, it is clearly a ‘military intervention’. The acting Phue Thai government is still in force but their power on security matters is now transferred to the army. Some might say it is ‘phantom coup’ or ‘disguised coup’

The impact of martial law can be analyzed in short-middle-long term period:

  • Short term (this week): the martial law will suppress the movement from both protester sites. We should see a temporary peace in Bangkok (with soldiers everywhere) for a few days.
  • Middle term (this month and next month): the ‘vacuum of power’ problem remains. Thailand has no official government and the lower house since last December. We will have the acting Prime Minister (Niwatthamrong Boonsongpaisan, Deputy PM) for normal day-to-day duty but he needs to ask Gen. Prayuth for anything related to politics and security.
  • Long term: the big problem remains. Thailand has been in a big transition toward modernity. The country needs to define the new political architecture in the next era.

We believe Gen. Prayuth himself act by his own, independently from PDRC (He seems to dislike PDRC as well) but his move is definitely what PDRC has long asked for six months (a ‘military intervention’). The army has been closely tied to the conservative forces for long time. Gen. Prayuth is considered as a hardliner and served in the ‘queen bodyguard’ infantry. He was also a high-level commander in 2006 coup against Thaksin government.

It is very likely for PDRC to cease its activities in the next few days and announce ‘the victory’. PDRC is very fatigued from the ongoing 6-month protest and the martial law is a good cause for the exit.

The martial law causes a big negative impact to the red shirts, which is against the army and any military intervention from the start. The clash between the red shirts and the army is possible but the possibility depends on PKCC’s movement in the next few days.

Possible Scenarios

As stated above, the martial law is just a short-term intervention. Thailand needs to find the solution for the political vacuum. Now the duty to decide belongs to only Gen. Prayuth himself.

Please note that the martial law is a 100-year old law this year (it became a royal act in 1914, just before the WWI, Thailand was an absolute monarchy state at that time). According the law, the army can declare the martial law but the only way to stop it is to the royal command from the king.

This means Prayuth need to find the way to solve Thailand’s political crisis and then submit a request to King Bhumibol to lift the martial law condition.

We believe there are two main possible scenarios:

The better one: Prayuth will consult the acting government, political leaders, the Senate, the Election Commission of Thailand (ETC) to set the new general election. Political protests will be prohibited at all. The Shinawatra family might skip the election to avoid further conflict and let other Phue Thai leaders compete instead. The opposing Democrat Party returns to the election. The new government (very likely for Phue Thai) will lead the reformation process and constitution amendment.

In this scenario, the red shirts will be ok if the election will happen. PDRC supporters might feel better if the election will happen under martial law. Prayuth will be considered as ‘an external judge’ to bring peace back to the country (though not in the full democratic way).

The worse one: Prayuth will let the Senate (only remaining political institution, also closed to PCRC) act as the full parliament. The Senate will choose the acting Prime Minister and cabinet, which might be unconstitutional. The new cabinet will face a big opposition from the red shirts. Since the martial law prohibits any political activities, the red shirts will go underground. Thailand might face the insurgency nationwide.

Thailand’s future in the next few decades is now under Prayuth’s hand. We should know soon what he will choose.

SIU on Reforming Democrat Party

Kan Yuenyong, SIU Director, joined the discussion on “Reforming Democrat Party” on Kom Chad Luek TV program.

9 October 2013 – Kan Yuenyong, SIU Director, joined the discussion on “Reforming Democrat Party” on Kom Chad Luek TV program.

The other panelists are:

  • Alongkorn Ponlaboot, Deputy Leader, Democrat Party
  • Jidtakorn Busaba, Political Analyst
  • Assoc.Prof.Yuttaporn Issarachai, Dean, Faculty of Political Science, Sukhothai Thammathirat Open University

Solution Talk by Adam Kahane

SIU and 21 partners co-organized a special event “Solution Talk by Adam Kahane”. The organizers invited Adam Kahane, an expert on peace process who has dialogue experiences from more than 20 countries across the world, including South Africa after apartheid, to tell his lessons to Thai society.

Adam Kahane in Thailand
Adam Kahane talking at “Solution Talk” (Photos from Kapook)

6 September 2013 – SIU and 21 partners co-organized a special event “Solution Talk by Adam Kahane”. The organizers invited Adam Kahane, an expert on peace process who has dialogue experiences from more than 20 countries across the world, including South Africa after apartheid, to tell his lessons to Thai society.

The Scenario Thailand project, the main driver of this event, aims for more dialogues among Thailand’s political actors, leading the way to the sustainable peace and reconcilation process.

The event was joined by Mr. Phongthep Thepkanjana, Deputy Prime Minister and Mr. Apirak Kosayodhin, former Bangkok Governor. The participants number is around 140 people from various sectors.

More information for this event at Siam Intelligence site (in Thai).

Report: New Media and Thailand’s Politics

Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) publish a series of reports on Asia Online Politics. Isriya Paireepairit, SIU Research Director, wrote the Thailand report and his work is now published as Free Space of Expression: New Media and Thailand’s Politics.

Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) publish a series of reports on Asia Online Politics. Isriya Paireepairit, SIU Research Director, wrote the Thailand report and his work is now published as Free Space of Expression: New Media and Thailand’s Politics.

Reports for other countries are available from FES web site.

Free Space of Expression: New Media and Thailand’s Politics

Thailand Intelligence Report – 14 August 2012

The second issue of Thailand Intelligence Report. This week in Thai politics will be around the Parliament.

Welcome to the second issue of Thailand Intelligence Report. This week in Thai politics will be around the Parliament.

President of the Senate

The first issue is the election of new President of the Senate today (14 August). There are three candidates: Nikom Wairatpanich (Current VP), Gesha Saksomboon and Pichate Soontornpipit. Nikom and Gesha are from the elected senator faction while Pichate is from the appointed faction.

This election is the power play between Elected and Appointed party. The media report that Pheu Thai will support Nikom but the votes just come from senators anyway. We expect very few impact for general political landscape for anyone who become the new President.

Government Budget FY2013

The house of representative will discuss about Government Budget FY2013 during 15-17 August 2012. The draft will pass the lower house anyway since Pheu Thai has control the votes. Though Democrat Party has already expressed the will to expose government budget corruptions thoroughly. It can be considered as a pre-event of a proper debate of no-confident in November.

Abhisit Resignation Rumor

There is a rumor (from Pheu Thai) that Democrat majority are against Abhisit and we will see his resignation from party leader soon. We think this news is very unlikely. Our sources confirm that many Democrats are not welcome Abhisit (his personality is not likable by his party members, according to the sources) but they still can’t find anyone who is better than Abhisit as well.

Democrat Party has still struggled for the leader succession line. Abhisit has lost his reputation during his reign but both Korn and Apirak are still not good enough as well.

There is also a rumor that Yingluck has conflicts with Thaksin. This news is unlikely as well and has no impact for short term politics. They should have some disagreements on policies and personnel but they will stick together for the moment. This might lead to the “Yingluck Faction” in Pheu Thai party but the one who control is still be Thaksin anyway.

Thaksin in USA

Thaksin went to LA for a talk and meeting with Red Shirts in the US. However, the US Yellow Shirts gathered a rally in the same venue (2,000 people according to report). Thaksin skipped the event to avoid conflict and no clash between reds and yellows.

SIU on Tour: Ubon Ratchathani

SIU seminar “Ubon Ratchathani: People’s Politics” at the most eastward province of Thailand.

SIU has a special event at Ubon Ratchathani on 19 June 2012 at Ubon Ratchathani University.

The seminar “Ubon Ratchathani: People’s Politics” was joined by two Ubon Ratchathani University professors, one student representative and activist Sombat Boonngamanong. About 100 people attended.

More details on Siam Intelligence web site:

Reuters: Thailand’s yellow shirts regroup, seek comeback

Reuters has a story on 17 June 2012 on the regroup of PAD. Kan Yuenyong, SIU Director, gave his comment for this article.

Reuters has a story on 17 June 2012 on the regroup of PAD. Kan Yuenyong, SIU Director, gave his comment for this article.

Even so, the yellow shirts may be forced to rekindle that relationship and get the Democrats’ supporters and their friends in big business behind another street campaign.

“The yellow shirts need the Democrat party,” said Kan of the Siam Intelligence Unit. “Otherwise they will not survive.”

A yellow shirt revival also raises the potential of conflict with a red-shirted pro-Thaksin movement that helped propel Yingluck to power.

Reuters: Thailand’s yellow shirts regroup, seek comeback

Reuters: Thai Flood and Yingluck Administration

An article on Reuters by Martin Petty and Jason Szep. It discusses on Thailand’s 2011 great flood and the political implication to PM Yingluck’s government.

28 October 2011 – Insight: Thai flood crisis puts swamped PM in firing line, a story on Reuters by Martin Petty and Jason Szep. It discusses on Thailand’s 2011 great flood and the political implication to PM Yingluck’s government.

The article also quotes Kan Yuenyong, SIU Director, on the political impact to Yingluck’s administration:

The government’s Flood Relief Operations Center (FROC) hasn’t helped. One minister at the center, for instance, told residents in Bangkok’s fringe provinces to evacuate. Within hours, another insisted the situation was under control.

Thais have been told Bangkok would escape the floods. Now, they are told the capital could be swamped for a month. Many have given up listening.

“People now don’t trust the leadership of Yingluck and the government. They are hoarding food and water and now they are relying on social media for their information,” said Kan Yuanyong, director of Siam Intelligence Unit, a think-tank.

In recent appearances before reporters, Yingluck has looked exhausted, at times on the verge of tears with a tremor in her voice — in stark contrast to her seemingly boundless energy and confidence on the campaign trail.

The full article is available at Reuters. It is also translated into Thai by Manager.

Reuters: Thaksin Skype Cabinet Meeting

Reuters quote SIU’s opinion on Thaksin’s Skype session for Pheu Thai members.

23 Sep 2011 – Reuters quote SIU’s opinion on Thaksin’s Skype session.

Thaksin tried to organize regular Pheu Thai execs meeting via Skype every Monday to follow the cabinet tasks. The public see this as the ‘real cabinet meeting’ beside the Yingluck’s cabinet meeting every Tuesday.

Reuters has a quote from Kan Yuenyong, SIU Director:

No one will be surprised if Thaksin wants to influence policy, but he is still, in theory, on the run from a two-year jail sentence and his presence at the meeting is provocative.

“This is the government’s weak point that opposition sides will use to attack Thaksin and Puea Thai, but it won’t make the government collapse,” said political analyst Kan Yuenyong at Siam Intelligence Unit.

Full article at Rueters. This news piece is also republished on The Guardian.