Deputy prime minister Chavit took responsibility for the way in which Tuesday’s protests were policed and as a consequence he resigned from the government. The former deputy has now voiced publicly what others have said in private when he stated that a military coup was the only way out of the current political turmoil. The military have consistently denied that they are preparing to intervene in the political crisis and army chief Anupong Paochinda has said this week that the military is not pressurizing the government.
Prospects for a Coup
Thailand has a history of coups and despite Anupong’s denials of military intervention it does remain a possibility. If a coup does happen it is likely to be swift and bloodless with power soon handed back to a civilian group until new elections are held or the entire electoral process is restructured. The military will certainly be keeping a close eye on proceedings, but there are a few other events which could bring the situation to a head one way or another before the end of the year.
Supreme Court to Pass Judgement on Ruling PPP Party
The People Power Party (PPP), which forms the majority of Thailand’s coalition government, faces the prospect of being disbanded. Under the constitution an entire party can be disbanded with all of its executives barred from politics if just one member of the party’s leadership is found guilty of vote fraud. The Election Commission has already found the PPP guilty under this ruling and if the Supreme Court concurs with the Election Commission then that will be the end of the current government. However, that wouldn’t mean the end of the political divisions and just as Thaksin’s Thai Rak Thai were replaced by the People Power Party, another group with populist support amongst rural Thai voters could emerge. The prosecution case against the PPP is being prepared at the moment, but it could be months before the Supreme Court reach a verdict.
Funeral of HRH Princess Galyani Vadhani
The king’s older sister passed away at the beginning of the year, but her cremation has yet to take place. The funeral ceremonies will be held in Bangkok from November 14–19. This is a hugely important event which will see hundreds of thousands of Thai people on the streets of Bangkok and foreign dignitaries visiting from around the world. Although Thailand may be divided on political lines, the royal cremation is an event that will see Thai people united in mourning for the much-loved Princess. The lead up to the event could also provide the impetus for meaningful negotiations between those on either side of the political divide.
The King’s Birthday
The birthday of King Bhumibol on December 5th takes on added significance this year. This date will be particularly poignant because of what has happened during the year; the king’s ill-health, the death of the king’s older sister and the political crisis which has resulted in bloodshed on the streets of Bangkok. King Bhumibol has officially remained neutral in political affairs, but in the past he has been a key player during times of troubles. In the past 60 years there have been many different governments and periods of crisis in Thailand, but the Thai king has been the constant and dependable figure that the nation could rely on. On the occasion of the king’s 81st birthday, Thai people will be looking to the future with uncertainty. The best present the politicians and protesters can give the king is a resolution of the political stalemate.