Detailing the coup

31 05 2014

Reuters reports a military document, dated 27 December 2013, which sets out “various scenarios of how the [then developing political] crisis could unfold and how the military should respond.”

One of those scenarios outlines what the army could do “if at any time the situation is beyond the control of police.” It says the army would impose a state of emergency or impose martial law. It is added:

The document also provides guidance on how to take power “while acting in a neutral manner,” and how to help mediate between the warring camps.

It does not report whether the document had plans for the coup.

The AP report does say more about the 2014 coup, saying that it doesn’t follow the usual script. It says:

This time, the army moved swiftly across the country, rounding up politicians, activists and academics, most of them “red shirt” supporters of the ousted government, according to multiple interviews with activists, the military and families of the detainees.

The idea that there is a “coup script” has also been mentioned by some academics in op-eds, such as Duncan McCargo at the New York Times. PPT thinks these pundits have short memories or flawed knowledge.

There is no script for military coups. Each has some similarities and some differences, and the script depends on the nature of the social and political forces the military decides to deal with. In the case of the AP claim, round-ups of political opponents outside Bangkok was seen, for example, in 1976. Likewise, the “lack of any timeline for a return to democracy soon” is not new.

AP is correct to observe that the “junta has denied planning the coup in advance.” It does this to make the illegal coup look somehow legal because “planning … a coup is treason…”. Of course, the military is always planning a coup when it is not in power. The puffed up Colonel Blimps at the top are always craving power and dismissive of civilian regimes. The article later notes:

Plans for a full military takeover were already advanced when Prayuth declared martial law on May 20—two days ahead of the coup….

An Army spokesman saying: “There was no planning in advance…” is denied by the facts that it moved especially quickly to decapitate the red shirt movement in the countryside; that was carefully planned. Its work on muzzling the media was also thought through in advance.

As the report notes, in “the north and northeast, where the potential for anti-coup dissent is much greater [than Bangkok, or so it was thought], the military is conducting a more draconian sweep and things have been less transparent.” In Bangkok the “military issues a formal announcement.” In the provinces, “They just show up in a truck and take you away.”

The Army now claims that it decided on a coup when the Constitutional Court “unexpectedly decided to leave a rump of the pro-Thaksin government in power as a caretaker administration…”. The failure of the judicial coup apparently “alarmed the military…”. It is claimed that the caretaker government “couldn’t sign any national security laws.

They were powerless to deal with civil unrest…”. Both claims are wrong, but the failure of the judicial coup seems to be the trigger for the military coup.

Claims in the article that current dictator General Prayuth Chan-ocha “was a reluctant coup-maker” is junta propaganda. As the article notes, he “was part of the junta that seized control of the government in 2006.” He was also “a hardline royalist, opposed to the red shirt movement.” The report should have added that he had earlier been a part of a command structure that implemented plans to massacre of red shirt protesters in 2010.


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