See More on Facebook

Opinion, Politics

What’s Thailand four-year-old coup given us anyway?

Four years after it toppled a democratically elected government, Thailand’s military government is fast losing support and has failed to live up to its promises.


Written by

Updated: May 30, 2018

There are children in Thailand who have never lived in a democratic country, young adults who have never voted in an election and old jaded journalists who worry about what “Thai-style democracy” might entail.

The military has promised to hold elections in early 2019, but it is just the latest declaration in a series of broken promises. After they took power in 2014, the junta promised to hold elections within a year but the goal posts kept moving and the generals kept ruling.

One must remember when assessing the military government, that the coup was ushered in by a significant sector of the populace – tired after ten years of political instability and spurred on by economic stagnation.

Yet here we are four years later and has anything changed for the better?

Promises of stability and reconciliation

When the military took power, it directly cited the massive street protests of 2013/14 and sporadic incidents of violence as reasons for its actions. The junta under General Prayuth Chan-ocha promised to stabilize the political situation and bring about reconciliation in Thai society.

Four years later and the Thai political situation is extremely stable, mostly because it is banned. Draconian and dictatorial laws have been enacted to ensure that protests and political meetings cannot be conducted without the military’s approval. It is not hard to ensure stability when in possession of all the guns.

The military has also cracked down on dissent, a cliched sentence I have typed numerous times, but one that is nevertheless true.

How has this powerful and authoritarian regime made sure that its rule is supreme and paramount?

By arresting the same 10 student protesters over and over again, arresting the student’s parents, declaring that it would go after foreign critics in exile and yelling at reporters who dare question the righteousness of the regime.

Regarding reconciliation, the military has done an excellent job as well but only in uniting the public against its rule. Indications are that the support that the junta originally enjoyed is on the wane and the public is growing restless with inept and incompetent governance.

In terms of reuniting the fractious political situation in Thailand, the results are unknown because politics is banned.

Economic goals

Another reason the military cited for its seizure of power was a stagnant economic situation, one hampered by years of political protest.

To its credit, the economy did pick up after the 2014 coup. But one feels that any sort of stability would have garnered in the same result.

That said, the plans that the military has implemented to carry the economy forward has fallen a bit flat.

Much was said about the junta’s Thailand 4.0 plan, a nebulous and vague command-style plan to kick start the economy by integrating interconnectivity and massive infrastructure development.

Did that last sentence seem a bit poorly worded and not making much sense?

Don’t worry, that’s because no one actually understands Thailand 4.0, not the economic Tsar that put it in place or his equally confused boss.

Asking Prayuth to explain Thailand 4.0 is like asking a military general to explain complex macroeconomic forces that shape a country.

So anything good happen then?

To be as fair to the junta as possible, the government has taken strong steps to combat corruption – luxury watches aside. The government has convicted several members of the previous government for corruption stemming from a rice subsidy program and has even forced a former premier to take flight over malfeasance charges.

That this government has been accused of corruption should come as no surprise given Thailand’s ranking on the corruption index – but the fact that it has tried to do something is laudable.

The military has also cracked down on migrant worker and forced labour issues after damaging reports from the Associated Press and the Guardian. These steps will likely form the backbone of Thailand’s migrant worker registration program going forward and its ability to fight human traffickers and smugglers.

Next Steps

Ultimately, the only solution for the military is to hold elections. It has taken steps to ensure that its rule is perpetuated even after polls. That is because of the constitution that it drafted – one where the military is able to appoint the entire upper house and has clauses in place for a general to step in and be an outsider prime minister when it is needed.

But even this seems like too much risk for the regime, indications are the 2019 election date will likely be pushed further.



Enjoyed this story? Share it.


Cod Satrusayang
About the Author: Cod Satrusayang is the Managing Editor at Asia News Network.

Eastern Briefings

All you need to know about Asia


Our Eastern Briefings Newsletter presents curated stories from 22 Asian newspapers from South, Southeast and Northeast Asia.

Sign up and stay updated with the latest news.



By providing us with your email address, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.

View Today's Newsletter Here

Opinion, Politics

West Papua and its troubled history with Indonesia

Recent riots and protests are just symptoms of long simmering ethnic tensions. Protests have broken out in the Indonesian province of West Papua with a local parliament being set alight and buildings torched in Sorong, the province’s largest city. The protests, involving hundreds of people, occurred throughout the province on Wednesday with buildings set on fire, including a prison where 250 inmates escaped, and rocks and projectiles thrown at security forces. The protests erupted, in part, because of the detention of ethnic Papuan students in the Indonesian city of Surabaya over accusations that they had desecrated the Indonesian flag on its national day. But long running ethnic tensions between the native West Papuans and the Indonesian central government have plagued the province since it was incorporated into Indonesia in the 1960s. A colonial legacy After the


By Cod Satrusayang
August 23, 2019

Opinion, Politics

Fresh clashes in Hong Kong protests

Hong Kong protesters clash with police, angry at lack of prosecutions after July subway mob attack. Thousands of jeering Hong Kong residents held a raucous anti-government protest on Wednesday (Aug 21) at a suburban subway station that was attacked by a mob last month, angry that nobody has yet been prosecuted for the violence. Some masked protesters clashed with police in the sub-tropical heat, spraying fire extinguishers from the inside of Yuen Long station as others smeared the floor with cooking oil to stop the police advancing. Some demonstrators blocked station exits and sealed roads outside the station, aiming green laser beams at the lines of shield-bearing officers. Others threw empty fire extinguishers at police lines from overpasses. It was the latest in a series of demonstrations, which have sometimes turned violent, since June against a perceived erosion


By The Straits Times
August 22, 2019

Opinion, Politics

Modi’s next move

Moeed Yusuf, the author of Brokering Peace in Nuclear Environments: US Crisis Management in South Asia, writes for Dawn newspaper.  For most in Pakistan, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s move of revoking held Kashmir’s special status in the Indian constitution came as a shock — even if his government’s manifesto categorically stated his intent to do so. Shocking? Hardly. In fact, the move has laid to rest any pretence that Modi recognises the need to be a centrist prime minister and that his pandering to his right-wing RSS support base is only a way to keep them in good humour. Everything about his government’s demeanour over the past couple of weeks confirms the deep ideological conviction that underpins his actions. Sadly, the popular rebuttal that India’s democracy is robust enough to keep the minorities from being jett


By Dawn
August 21, 2019

Opinion, Politics

Nearly two million rally peacefully in Hong Kong

Government says while rally is generally peaceful, traffic disrupted. Protesters gathered at the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Forces Hong Kong Building in Central, as well as the Central Government Complex next to it on Sunday night (Aug 18). This followed an earlier peaceful march from Victoria Park in Causeway Bay to Chater Garden in Central despite a police ban. Some protesters, however, turned their laser pointers on the government offices. Meanwhile, hundreds of protesters lingered on Harcourt Road, prompting police to issue a warning for them to disperse. The police said the protesters had “shot hard objects at the Central Government Complex with slingshots and aimed laser beams at police officers”, posing a safety threat. Protesters there briefly surrounded a mainland Chinese man and questioned his identity after he was spotted trying


By The Straits Times
August 19, 2019

Opinion, Politics

Editorial: Draconian measures in Jammu & Kashmir

India must treat Kashmiris like its own citizens the way it claims and not alienate them any longer. On August 5, the world’s largest secular democracy decided to unilaterally dissolve the autonomy of its only Muslim-majority state and replace it with direct rule by the federal government. Eight days since, the goings-on in what was once Jammu and Kashmir, home to 12.5 million, remain opaque. The region is under curfew, with all communication and media cut and security forces on the streets enforcing a tight clampdown. Even as international media cover Indian-administered Kashmir to shed more light on the situation, India insist


By The Kathmandu Post
August 15, 2019

Opinion, Politics

Hong Kong airport beefs up security as flights resume after protest chaos

Hong Kong courts declare airport occupation to be illegal. Flights resumed at Hong Kong’s airport Wednesday (Aug 14) after two days of disruptions marked by outbursts of violence that highlight the hardening positions of pro-democracy protesters and the authorities in the semi-autonomous Chinese city. Reflecting growing international concern, the US State Department on Wednesday issued a travel advisory for Hong Kong, urging “increased caution in Hong Kong due to civil unrest.” A State Department spokesman also expressed concern about reports of movements of Chinese forces on the border with Hong Kong and urged Beijing to honor the territory’s autonomy. “The United States is deeply concerned by reports of Chinese paramilitary movement along the Hong Kong border,” the spokesman said, referring to satellite photos showing what appear to be armoured personnel carriers and other vehicl


By The Straits Times
August 15, 2019