Opinion – 16 years of lost opportunities, what lessons have Thais learnt from coup

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Former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra who was ousted in a military coup 16 years ago on this day said the military has taken the country down to the ground because military personnel are the last people who would know how to run a country.

“I have said this in the past that the military is like a guard to protect the property of the people not to be the CEO who run the country and find funds to improve the livelihoods of the people, the military only knows how to spend money but does not know how to find money,” Thaksin said in a post on his social media.

Exactly 16 years ago, a coup was staged by then army chief Sonthi Boonyaratkalin while Thaksin was attending the United Nations summit in the United States.

Rumors of a possible coup were rife even before the now self-exiled Prime Minister was about to leave for New York. However, Thaksin was adamant that a coup was not possible after what had happened during the 1992 coup that was led by then army chief Suchinda Kraprayoon.

It did happen and Thaksin on Monday made 10 points of what he regrets since the 2006 coup that ousted him:

  1. That the ‘People’s Constitution’ of 1997 was replaced by a constitution that helps keeps dictatorship in power
  2. That the reputation of Thailand has gradually been tarnished on the world stage
  3. That the country has lost the opportunity to develop its education, technology, agriculture, and industries
  4. That he was not able to solve the problems of people living in poverty, a thing that should have been eradicated by now
  5. That the country’s young population has lost the opportunity to find better jobs with higher pays despite many countries of similar economies witnessing a better growth in job and income
  6. That Thailand lost its status as a hub of ASEAN aviation despite the country’s geographical location that could help the country to become an aviation hub
  7. That the drug problems have risen to a new level and they are now cheaper than chewing gum
  8. That the country continues to face the same problems of flooding that remains persistent in the low-lying areas
  9. That the bureaucracy, which was becoming modern, has now reverted back to the old ways of operations
  10. That the country had to resort to borrowing to keep the country running and household debts are at levels that are difficult for families to repay it

Victim of Success

In many ways, he was right, and in many ways, Thaksin was overthrown simply because he was too successful as a politician.

He won a landslide victory with a party that he founded. He became the first elected premier to stay in power for a full term and then became the first to ever get reelected, again with a landslide.

It was a rare thing to see in this coup-ridden county where the military insisted on becoming a political player with a total of 13 successful coups since the country changed from absolute monarchy to constitutional monarchy in 1932.

“To me, the crisis began in February 2005 when Thaksin was reelected with a landslide,” said Thitinan Pongsudhirak, A professor and director of the Institute of Security and International Studies at Chulalongkorn University’s Faculty of Political Science.

“The worst thing you can do in Thai politics is to run for office and get elected by a landslide because when you do that, the knives will come out.”

“The people who have power in this country are not elected, the last thing they want to see is some and a representative with a massive popular support,” he told Thai Enquirer during a phone conversation about the topic.

Prayut raises hand in parliament in August 2022 to own up that he staged the 2014 coup

Thaksin was sidelined by the coup but his influence in Thai politics did not stop as his supporters and pro-democracy activists joined forces to form the Red Shirts which took down a military-puppet government of Former Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva.

It came with a high cost as more than 90 people lost their lives in the 2010 massacre that the military undertook to ‘control’ the protest.

After the crackdown of the Red Shirts, Former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra was elected as the country’s first female Prime Minister.

Her rule did not last as long as her brother’s since another coup in 2014 ended her time in power and this time it was led by General Prayut Chan-o-cha.

Since then, Gen. Prayut has been running this country down to the ground.

The divisive leader wrote his own rules to ensure that he can stay in power for as long as he can.

He split the people into two sides to make it easier for him to control.

Prayut’s cronies have been siphoning money out of the state coffer with various corruption scandals.

He misused the law to silence dissidents and now he is trying to manipulate his own rules so that he can stay in power for a little longer as he awaits the judgment from the Constitutional Court.

The result of this will remain to be seen as the court has set September 30, 2022, as the day to hand down its verdict on the 8-year term limit of Gen. Prayut.

Coup Prone Thailand and the Lost Decades

The coup after coup has resulted in lost decades where a bunch of generals who do not have a clue of how to properly run a country have been sucking out money from the national resources into their own pockets.

Pheu Thai Party’s advisor Phumtham Wechayachai wrote on his Facebook page on Monday to mark the anniversary of the 2006 coup by saying that Thai society already has a better understanding of the consequences of a coup d’etat.

He said a coup is a poison that attacks every system in the society including democracy, economy, welfare and stability.

He said one of the worst consequences is the people in power’s manipulation of the law to get rid of political oppositions and dissidents while forgiving their own with complete disregard for the rule of law.

These were evidenced in the previous cases against Gen. Prayut and Gen. Prawit where junta-appointed “independent institutions” have been coming up with all sorts of distortion of the law so that these generals can continue to stay in power, no matter how ridiculous the excuses were.

A junta-drafted charter that allows 250 junta-appointed senators to pick a premier so that Prayut can be transformed into a civilian premier.

Expensive watches that were borrowed from a dead friend and a general who continue to live in a house inside an army barrack even though he already retired.

A convicted heroin smuggler turned deputy minister because he did not commit the crime in this country.

The dissolution of 2 opposition parties for no good reasons, all done because the coup makers now have absolute power to do whatever they feel like.

Time to Stop

Phumtham said Thailand has been taking steps backward for the past 16 years over a conflict that was started by people who refused to give up their power so that they can use it to benefit themselves and their friends.

There is certainly no denying that Gen. Prayut is still doing it.

Today as Thailand marks the 16th anniversary of the 2006 coup, it should serve as a reminder of the hideous consequences of coup d’etat, and how such an action results in lost opportunities and how we should never allow it to happen again.

Never again.

Thaksin’s post on his Facebook to mark the 16th anniversary of the 2006 coup


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