How to Stage a Coup 101

As I mentioned in a previous post, Thailand had their first elections since the military took control about a year ago. Now I don’t want to be critical but I think one of the things you should learn in military academy is how to properly execute a coup. Thailand’s big dog in the military obviously skipped that class as the Thai people esentially re-elected the same government that the coup threw out. My guess is that that was not a great career move for anyone in the higher ranks of the military.

The Thai Rak Thai (TRT) party was headed by Thaksin Shinawatra who was the prime minister of the country. After the coup the TRT was banned and 111 members of the party were prohibited from participating in politics for five years. In the elections this week the Thai people elected the People Power Party (PPP) into power which is basically the same people who were a part of the TRT party.

Now Thaksin wasn’t exactly a model for enlightened leadership. His government was constantly accused of corruption and human rights abuses. Thaksin was personally accused of twisting the tax laws to escape paying taxes on a 73 billion baht sell of his telecom holdings. He also drew critisism when he launched a three month anti-drug campaign in which the first seven weeks saw over 2700 people associated with the drug trade killed. The government claimed only 50 people died at the hands of police but it was widely believed that many more were extrajudicially executed. When the UN asked to investigate Thaksin famously said “The UN is not my father.”

I’m no expert on Thai politics but from what I can gather from local Thai people, most middle and upper class Thai people strongly disliked Thaksin. Most of his support came from the farmers and people living in rural areas. He took money from the upper/middle class and created all sorts of programs for those living in the rural areas which made him almost saint-like there. Any government that has a policy of robbing Peter to pay Paul is certain to have the support of Paul.

What came as a suprise only to the military leadership, the PPP ran the same line to the rural people as the TRT had and won those districts in a pretty spectacular fashion. In fact, most of the candidates basically ran on a “vote for me and we’ll bring back Thaksin” campaign. What’s even more interesting is that the man who will be the next PM, Samak Sundaravej, is not exactly the forgive and forget kind of guy. Doesn’t sound like the type of guy who is going to quickly forget the military’s power grab.

Should be a pretty interesting next few months here.

Bill Rini
Bill Rini is currently the Head of Online Poker for WSOP. He has been working in the online poker industry since 2004 and has held management roles at Full Tilt Poker and PartyPoker.