BESIEGED BY sporadic mass protests in all regions of the country and a sustained economic downturn due in large part to the global pandemic and in no small part to his alleged failures to fix it, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha appears to have three way-outs – dissolve parliament or resign or manipulate sort of a self-coup. Some political analysts have been inclined to believe he would eventually prefer the last option – get formally deposed in a self-coup with ironic intent to prolong his regime.
Others strongly maintain that Prayut would never dissolve parliament simply because he cannot rest ultimately assured of a chance of his coming back to power following a new election, albeit given overwhelming support from coalition MPs plus the senators whom he himself has handpicked.
Neither would Prayut ever decide to step down only to be succeeded by whoever the lawmakers may pick in his place, according to political observers. ”To dissolve parliament or to resign means to surrender under pressure. Such whims would not even be seriously contemplated by the likes of Prayut,” said one closely connected with politicians.
Given his dual roles as head of government and defense minister, Prayut would almost certainly find easy access to top brass members with whom he may hold hush-hush sessions at any given time. Like those conducted in the past, a coup might be staged by the pro-government military as well as by the anti-government one.
In his capacity as defense minister, Prayut would undoubtedly see to it that his favorite generals, admirals and marshals be promoted to decisive lines of command in an annual military reshuffle so that they would be sooner or later obliged to return favors if need be, a political analyst put it.
Army chief Gen. Apirat Kongsompong, navy chief Adm. Luechai Ruddit and air force chief ACM Manat Wongwat are all retiring at the end of the upcoming September and it is no surprise to the military and civilians alike to see those outgoing chiefs virtually being succeeded by pro-Prayut soldiers.
”Possibilities of one person orchestrating a coup to overthrow oneself and practically retain power simply cannot be ruled out in Thailand. For instance, former prime minister Thanom Kittikachorn did a self-coup in 1971 and continued on in power for two years before he was ousted for good,” said the political analyst.
The so-called Student Union of Thailand and Free Youth movement have continually inspired students and young people in Bangkok and the provinces to put on face masks and peacefully gather on the streets or at public places for an hour or two in protest against the Prayut regime. The young demonstrators have repeatedly echoed demands that the prime minister instruct the authorities, especially those in charge of security affairs, to stop intimidating anti-government activists and tolerate freedom of expression, put forward constitution amendment bids to make it ”truly democratic” and dissolve the House of Representatives to allow a fresh election of MPs.
However military commanders were said to take for granted that the former army chief who led a bloodless coup in 2014 and has become an unelected prime minister following last year’s election would very unlikely meet the students’ demands. That might be seen as a rekindled startup to a political crisis, comparable to previous ones which only ended up in coups.
Deputy Prime Minister/Palang Pracharath Party Leader Prawit Wongsuwan, among others, was said to believe some sort of conspiracy theorists were lurking around behind the scenes of the student movement. ”The powers that be have seemed to pay attention to movements in relation to conspiracy theorists rather than those demands raised by the protesters allegedly influenced by them,” one put it.
Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit and Piyabutr Saengkanokkul, former leader and secretary general of the dissolved Future Forward Party respectively, were not spared accusations to the extent that they may have hiddenly designed an enormous change in the country’s political climate since they openly gave moral support for those street activists.
Both Prayut and Prawit promptly assured they have instructed police to handle the anti-government protests in negotiable, compromising fashion and to not try to intimidate the demonstrators in any manner while maintaining public peace and order. The leading government figures raised concerns over possibilities that the opposing groups of demonstrators might emotionally provoke each other, thus warranting the intervention by the police and other authorities to avert an untoward incident.
In another development, an extraordinary committee, set up by the government to study ways and means to amend the constitution, has resolved to put forward constitution amendment bids, a success of which will decisively lie at the mercy of government lawmakers and at least one-third of the pro-Prayut senators. It would roughly take a two years for a constitution drafting committee and the legislators to finish the making of a new charter.
In the meantime, a pro-government group of vocational students was quickly formed with alleged intent to confront, if not downright clash head-on, with the anti-government protesters. The vocational students used Democracy Monument as the same venue of their gathering as the other side did, albeit on entirely different ideological platforms.
Sustained mass protests and confrontations are feared to culminate in street violence, given the circumstances under which neither side would almost certainly offer to lose ground. Would the cliche which says history always repeats itself be the only response to political conflict which might probably be capped off by another coup with Prayut remaining as head of a post-coup government?
At times the army chief-turned-prime minister has appeared to be helplessly cornered in the face of hot issues and frustratedly remarked he would hate to do what he has done before. One cannot help wondering what was on his mind every time he said so.
Top: Students rallying recently at the Democracy Monoment. Photo:
First insert: Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha. Photo: Matichon
Second insert: A demonstration in Nakhon Ratchasima recently. Photo:
Third insert: Deputy Prime MInister Prawit Wongsuwan. Photo: Matichon
Fourth insert: Former leader of Future Forward Party Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit. Photo: Siambusinessnews.com
Below: Protest at Krasetsart University in Bangkok recently. Photo: Prachatai