What do you think when you hear the name Thailand?
Beaches? Elephants? Spicy food?
If you’ve been keeping up with the world news, you might think of Thailand’s military coup d’état of 2014.
Thailand has had a long history of the military being very active in its politics, giving our country the title of “one of the countries most prone to coups”. Since the end of Thailand’s absolute monarchy system in 1932, 11 coups have occurred and there have been 7 unsuccessful attempts.
This political crisis has been a part of Thailand for a long while. It stems from a deep divide between the supporters of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who are mostly poor rural farmers, and people who are against him, mostly the urban populace and elite in Bangkok, Thailand’s capital.
Mr. Shinawatra was ousted for allegations of corruption in 2008, and now lives in exile between Dubai and London.
Shortly after, in the 2011 elections, his sister Yingluck Shinawatra, with no previous experience in politics, was elected. Following the government’s suggestion of a political amnesty bill, which would mean that Thaksin would return to Thailand without any punishment, mass anti-government protests took place in Central Bangkok.
The judiciary then stepped in and ousted Yingluck’s party for abusing their power and this, in turn, led to the pro-government red-shirts to rally against the other protesters. This meant that Thailand was in a political soup and on the verge of major violence and unrest.
Thus, on the 22nd of May 2014, the military, lead by General Prayuth Chan Oh Cha, conducted a coup ‘d’état, suspending the constitution of Thailand and imposing a martial law, which included limitations such as curfews.
Since then an interim government, made up of mostly military officials, has been set up and General Prayuth is the acting Prime Minister of Thailand. Currently, Thailand’s constitution is in the process of being rewritten and the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), lead by Mr. Prayuth, has promised that after reforms on Thailand’s political system have been finished, Thailand will return to a democratically elected government.
I have conducted an interview to find out the viewpoint of an average Thai on the coup d’état, an event that happened nearly a year ago. This viewpoint is not in anyway representative of other people, but only of the subject interviewed.
What was your first reaction to the coup d’état?
My first reaction consisted of mixed feelings. There was shock, disbelief and sadness that the military had to resort to this method to solve the country’s problems. There have been many other coup d’états in Thailand’s history and it felt as though we were stuck in a limbo, never finding a way out of the problem of clashing points of view within the country. I believed the coup d’état was not a sustainable solution.
How did it affect your life in the early times?
I was unsure of how to act and what we could and couldn’t do in those times. There was more tension and strictness. Government patrols and curfews were common. For example, in those early days we couldn’t be out later than 10pm. I’d say it was a stark difference from the period before the coup d’état occurred, when protests were occurring. In those times there was lack of law and order and chaos was everywhere.
How did its effect change as time went on?
After a while I think everyone got used to this new political situation and life went back to normal. Our day-to-day lives went back to the way they were before the protests happened. But I think in the back of our minds people know that the fundamental problem hasn’t been solved with this action and there are people out there who are very unsatisfied with the coup.
NOTE: I’d like to mention that as a Thai person who is living in Thailand, this is more of an opinion feature than news.