Is another coup brewing?
Thailand on Wednesday celebrated the birthday of King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who turns 85 this year. Waves of humans wearing yellow, the colour that symbolises the King, swept through Rachadamneon Avenue where the celebration was held, a testimony to how the Thais continue to worship possibly the only King many will know in their lifetime.
At this very spot, just over a week ago, anti-government forces held a rally in an attempt to topple the elected government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. One of the justifications was that Ms Yingluck had emerged as a threat to the royal institution. Six years ago, her brother, former Prime Minister Thaksin, was also accused of the same crime.
Almost simultaneously last week, the opposition Democrat Party, known for its royalist leanings, filed a no-confidence motion against the government. Ms Yingluck comfortably survived the vote following a heated three-day debate in Parliament on the government’s controversial rice-pledging scheme and flood management budget.
Ms Yingluck denied her government had committed corruption and that the rice-pledging scheme directly benefited middle-income farmers who happened to be loyal supporters of the ruling Pheu Thai Party. She also spoke proudly of her government’s success in preventing the devastating floods this year (unlike in 2011, when raging floods swept the central plains).
In Thai politics, a no-confidence debate is a usual affair. But this debate was significant as it took place a day after the much-anticipated anti-government rally. Both events were coordinated attacks against the government.
A DESPERATE ACT
The leader of the rally, General Boonlert Kaewprasit, a leader of the right-wing Siam Pitak group, is also known as a devout royalist. A veteran soldier, he joined a group of military men some 30 years ago in staging a coup against the royally-appointed Prime Minister of the day, Thanin Kraivixian. Today, he has transformed himself into an outspoken royalist against the Yingluck government.
He is known to have forged close ties with former Prime Minister General Surayud Chulanont, now a Privy Councillor, who had formed a military government in the aftermath of the 2006 coup ousting Thaksin Shinawatra.