On Tuesday 22 May Thailand's military declared martial law. On Thursday 22 May they took power in a coup. They have suspended the constitution, banned demonstrations and detained politicians including Yingluck Shinawatra who, until very recently, was primed minister. The head of the military, General Prayuth Chan-ocha has appointed himself the new prime minister.
The coup follows a court ruling early this month removing Shinawatra from her position as prime minister on the grounds that she had acted illegally by moving her national security chief to another position.
For many months now Thailand's two main political parties have been at war.
There has been anti-government protests and counter-protests. The anti-government force - the bulk of whom are Democratic Party supporters, also know as “yellow shirts” - said the government was corrupt. They represent a section of the Thai bourgeoisie, they have had backers in the military, and their goal has been for the military to “step into” a situation of political chaos.
An election called in February this year was never completed because contests where voting had been disrupted had to be restaged.
For the last few months therefore Thailand has been ungoverned.
The coup is somewhat of a re-run of 2006 when the army acted to replace the previous administration of Thaksin Shinawatra. Yingluck Shinawatra is Thaksin’s sister, and her party, the Pheu Thai Party, is seen as a successor to her brother’s Thai Rack Thai party. Pro-government supporters are known as “red shirts”. They have a support base among the mostly rural poor, but also represent bourgeois interests.
The bourgeois forces behind the “yellow shirts” wanted to stop possibility of Thaksin Shinawatra returning to Thailand and his supporters in rural and Northern Thailand gaining the upper hand. They also oppose policies that have brought in greater access to healthcare for the rural poor and have improved the living standards for many of Thailand’s poorest. And pro-Thaksin parties have won every election since 2001.
The military could meet opposition from the “red shirts”, there could even be civil war. The immediate crackdown looks severe with arrest of poltiical leaders, the imposition of a curfew and a media black out. The army's promise to implement political reforms are false, and even if it was not, would be undertaken in the worst of all possible circumstances.
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