Socialist Worker

Thailand: a coup in slow motion

by Giles Ji Ungpakorn
Issue No. 2404

Yingluck Shinawatra

Yingluck Shinawatra (Pic: Foreign & Commonwealth Office/Flickr)


General Prayuth Chan-ocha has declared martial law in Thailand without consulting the caretaker government or any elected representatives.

Troops took over all radio and TV stations. They also positioned themselves along major road intersections in the capital Bangkok. 

The army summonsed provincial officials in the north east to report to an army camp. 

The north east is an important base for the pro-democracy Redshirt movement. General Prayuth claimed that it wasn’t a coup.

If the military were really concerned with keeping the peace, as they claim, they would have acted against the anti-democratic mobs, led by Suthep Thaugsuban.

These invaded government ministries and used violence on the streets to wreck the February elections.

But the military are just team players on the side of those who want to destroy Thailand’s democratic space. 

They have sat on their hands and watched with glee as Yingluck Shinawatra’s Pua Thai government was gradually destroyed by the courts and the elections wrecked by thugs. 

Now they estimate that their allies have created enough chaos to legitimise military intervention.

This is a coup in slow motion. It is the second military coup in eight years and follows three judicial coups.

All have so far failed to wipe out the popularity of Thaksin Shinawatra’s populist political parties. His sister was the latest elected prime minister to be overthrown.

General Prayuth is a man with blood on his hands. Four years ago he oversaw the shooting down in the streets of almost 90 Redshirt demonstrators.

Supporting the military is a nasty coalition made up of the Democrat Party, the entire conservative elite, the middle classes, most academics and NGO leaders. 

Included in this were some trade union bureaucrats from the state enterprises like Thai Airways, the electricity generating authority and the railways.

This military coup will smooth the way for an unelected “temporary” prime minister who could remain in office for months. 

It will also smooth the way to fixing the democratic process so that unelected powers can control any future elected government. 

It is part of the process of decreasing the democratic space and extinguishing the voice of ordinary farmers and workers who voted for Pua Thai and who form the backbone of the Redshirts.

Democracy can only be built if significant numbers of Redshirts realise that Pua Thai and the Redshirt leadership are unwilling to lead a fight. 

Thaksin is a billionaire who does not want to lead an all-out struggle for democracy. The building of an independent pro-democracy movement based upon the Redshirts, with clear links to the progressive working class and peasantry, is long overdue.

Giles Ji Ungpakorn was a founding member of Turn Left Thailand. He lives in exile in Britain. Read other articles on his website redthaisocialist.com

Click here to subscribe to our daily morning email newsletter 'Breakfast in red'

Mobile users! Don't forget to add Socialist Worker to your home screen.