Exclusive: former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra reflects on the 2014 coup

Yingluck Shinawatra is the former Prime Minister of Thailand who came into power in 2011. She was removed from office by the Constitutional Court and her government was overthrown by a military coup in 2014.

What were you thinking 15 days before the coup?

YL: The Constitutional Court decided to dismiss me from my office 15 days before the coup for removing an appointee from an earlier government.

It has been 6 years since then.

I began to understand immediately after my dismissal that a coup was imminent, I just didn’t know when exactly when it was going to happen. Following the court’s decision, the cabinet then appointed an acting premier, which meant that I was unable to do anything after that.

I had no power left to help and all I could do was to observe and follow the situation. This was mainly because then chief of army, Khun Prayut Chan-ocha, initiated a nationwide martial law and began to move soldiers into more and more areas.  

Even though there was an attempt to foster reconciliation in order to reform the country before the next election, I did not believe that it could actually happen.

Reconciliation must start from the cause of the conflict. To fix the problem from the bottom up without looking at the real cause of the conflict is close to impossible. In the end, the coup happened and the leaders from all sides were detained while they were discussing about systematic reconciliation.

The detention of the leaders confirmed my own suspicion about the coup even before it happened on May 22, 2014.

Where was I before that? I was still in Thailand and in a safe place until the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) invited me to turn myself in.

I couldn’t do anything that I wanted to do because I was dismissed from my office via court’s order. But I have to keep moving forward. It has been 6 years since the coup and it clearly confirms that the reformation undertaken after the coup did not improve our country’s situation.

It was a step backward and it was a missed opportunity, especially for the country’s economy. Some may say that the coup has created peace. But this kind of peace does not fix the conflict in every Thai person’s heart. It is a peace that comes from suppression. A peace that cost us our economic development.

Even though there was a new election, the economic system and the thinking behind it are still the same. When we have to think about the future after Covid-19, we have to figure out a way to recover from the damage that has been done to businesses and the people since the coup until now, along with the outbreak.

We need to lay down a new economic foundation and structure instead of just looking to spend budget on things that do not create any economic benefit for this country. Since the rules and the management of this country are still under the shadow of the coup, how can our country go back to when it was in the past?

Therefore today, I would like to mourn for Thailand’s losses and the missed opportunities.

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