Coup? What coup?

Thai troops secure an area of Bangkok surrounded by pro-government Red Shirts. Photo by AFP.

Thai troops secure an area of Bangkok surrounded by pro-government Red Shirts. Photo by AFP.

As the boots of Thailand’s military beat the Bangkok streets – yet again – are we seeing a coup – yet again?

The military are claiming that they are merely restoring order and bringing an end to the merry-go-round of political instability plaguing the country for so long.

But whether its seen as another hostile takeover in a long line of hostile takeovers by the country’s armed forces (18 since 1932), all depends on how you read the constitution, says Australian National University expert Dr John Blaxland.

He says that Thai army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha has invoked a little known legal clause which authorises the military to act in the face of the breakdown of order.

“He hasn’t abrogated the constitution nor removed the acting interim prime minister, Niwatthamrong Boonsongphaisan,” he told the ANU College of Asia and the Pacific on Tuesday.

“By declaring martial law, what he’s done is generate a circuit breaker to prevent an imminent violent clash.

“But whether or not he will be successful is another matter.”

However, Blaxland notes that in the eyes of some experts, the Army’s actions constitute a legal grey zone, which may have technically breached the constitution.

“At the moment politics in Thailand are extremely fraught and tenuous,” he says.

Whether military muscle is the way to harden the country’s democratic credentials is another question entirely.

Read the full story at the ANU College of Asia and the Pacific website.

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