While the vast majority of Thai people are commemorating the 5th anniversary of the latest coup in order to show their strong disdain for this unconstitutional method of political change, a small group of people is spreading the possibility of another coup if the fugitive Thaksin Shinawatra returns to the country.
Thailand remains divided over the issue of Thaksin five years after the 19 September 2006 putsch. In fact, the core issue about the ‘coup ghost’ reflects the defiance of the “invisible hands” against the shift of power from uniformed- and bureaucracy-oriented forces to the electoral-favored regime.
Thanet Abhornsuvan, retired history professor from Thammasat University, noted that there has been no historical anti-coup sentiment as strong as that of today.
“It’s not just a commemoration of a few anti-army activists or the Pheu Thai supporters. The last coup has somehow created a complicated consequence of debates and contemplations among people of all walks of life over key issues including the divisions of powers and the importance of constitution—in short, in a manner to strive against the invisible hands or the unconstitutional powers,” said Mr Thanet.
The historian noticed that people in the past five years have realized that no matter how flawed the electoral system is, it remains the show of force of their very power.
The post-coup revelations have shown that despite their poor economic, military and social status back-ups, the people own and are able to exercise their sovereign power, Mr Thanet said.
If there was any merit of the coup, it was to make people confident in the future that they really have the legitimate power and could veto the traditional institutions—such as the military-- if they turn against them, he said.
Even among uniformed officers, there is disagreement with the coup. A full-star general who asked not to be named conceded that the 2006 coup only fattened a few generals and did not solve any deep-rooted problems in society—including corruption and southern violence.
“If there is another coup, Thailand would be ranked below Burma. Those in control of the army should be enlightened now that the 3 July election has already shown that the majority of soldiers and their families did not vote for the party the top army leadership favored,” said the still-working general.
He noted that Thailand should gear towards military reform in a similar manner such as other countries including Indonesia have been embarking on. “If there is a smaller budget and fewer top positions, there would be fewer cakes to share—hence an inability to stage any coup. Also there should not be an amnesty clause for those tearing up the constitutions with force, or they would feel complacent that they could stay away from the illegal act against the charter,” said the senior officer.
A Red-Shirted former senior judge Manit Jitjunglub said it was time to contemplate constitutional importance as “a consent agreement” that it was the people at the top of this country.
“King Prachatipok handed that very power of legislation, judiciary and executive which he had owned to the people—a group of people just handled such power on the people’s behalf,” said the retired judge.
Despite some progressive political developments, Singapore-based historian Michael Montesano doubted whether the current political realities would be able to propel discussions as far as many people would want to see.
"Thaksin Shinawatra has shown little interest in his Red-Shirted supporters since the election. While his political enemies also show no sign of willingness to adapt to the emerging political landscape; so it is hard to see where (leadership) of such a movement will come from,” said Mr Montesano.
He noted that “if this stale-mate leads to radical proposals, the back-lash against those proposals could be all the more violent."
Michael Nelson, a Bangkok-based political analyst, said, like it or not, the emerging Red-Shirted villages across the Northeast and the North were symbolic show of collective force against the military.
“The previous 1992 or 2006 coups see no strengths against the putsch from the grassroots and provincial members within society. But if anything happens now, hundreds of thousands of villagers will become cadres against the military,” said Mr Nelson.
However, he did not rule out the possibility of a coup, “Living here long enough, reminding me of the pre-1992 coup situations in which Mr Chalerm Yoobamrung under the Chatchai administration was among the limelights.”
As the political temperature has gradually been warmer for a number of reasons, some old cadres, particularly those with imperative political bans, were trying to prop up the Yingluck administration for at least one year—until their lock-up expires in May next year.
Montesano was worried that if Thaksin was too impatient (to return home, etc.), and the Yingluck government was to fall apart, who else could win an election?
“More importantly, how much will the means by which she is brought down only deepen division in Thailand?”