Govt denies ‘Washington Post’ assertion Thailand faces high risk of coup this year

national February 03, 2017 01:00


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KEY GOVERNMENT and junta figures yesterday ruled out the possibility of a fresh military coup this year, rebuffing a prediction in the Washington Post that Thailand had a high risk of another power seizure.

Authorities said there were no reasons for another military coup and that the current post-coup government was enjoying unity with the Armed Forces. They also said that the military worked under the administration.

Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwan said military officers did not want to stage a coup unless the country was mired in a severe impasse. He added that if reconciliation could be reached between the conflicting sides, “no coups would ever happen again” in Thailand.

“There is a high likelihood of no more coups if all the politicians can talk to one another and take good care of the people. The military then works under politicians,” Prawit said.

Army commander-in-chief General Chalermchai Sitthisart also ruled out the possibility of a coup against the current government. He said Thai people should know better than the foreign media regarding the matter.

Chalermchai, speaking in his capacity as secretary-general of the ruling junta’s National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), said he had stated there would not be a coup under his leadership shortly after assuming office as the Army chief last October.

The Army chief said Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha had the trust of all the Armed Forces commanders regarding security matters. 

As NCPO secretary, Chalermchai was assigned by Prayut, who is also the NCPO chief, to approve the movements of military weapons on his behalf. Chalermchai said the move was aimed at reducing the prime minister’s workload.

A Washington Post analysis piece published on Tuesday, under the headline “Where are coups most likely to occur in 2017?”, said Thailand was the second on a list of “Thirty countries with the highest risk of a coup attempt” – the top being Burundi. The list included mostly African countries, as well as Turkey in the fifth spot, Pakistan 14th, Russia 20th, Ukraine 22nd and Nepal 28th.

The American newspaper said the rankings were based on its research to forecast irregular leadership changes that include coups.

“The country [Thailand] approved a new constitution in 2016 and scheduled elections for 2017 – but, as some researchers point out, elections often increase the risk of further coup attempts,” the paper said.

Democrat Party politician Watchara Petchthong said the Washington Post analysis was inaccurate as he believed that Thailand should have been ranked highest in terms of the chance of seeing another coup.

“Thailand always has a risk of a military coup. We have coups and elections alternatively, on average one coup every 10 years,” he said, adding that he did not think the latest coup in May 2014 would be the last for Thailand.

In a related development, Prawit and Chalermchai said threats had been made against both the defence minister and the prime minister.

Prawit said reporters who asked him about the possibility of another coup this year should have paid attention to an online threat to assassinate him. 

“Some people posted on social media that they will kill me,” he said.

Chalermchai said security had been stepped up around Prayut and Prawit following the threat, although he did not think anything bad would happen. The Army chief also said intelligence did not indicate any threats to the security of the two government leaders.

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