Is What's Happening In Thailand A Coup?

Thailand has seen 18 coup attempts since 1932. The country's military, however, insists its latest actions don't amount to one.

Is What's Happening In Thailand A Coup?
Bangkok Post / Chanat Katanyu

Thailand’s military has declared martial law across the country — claiming it has the right to do so after months of violent anti-government protests.  (Via Flickr / Globovisión)

The military strongly denies its actions amount to a coup d’etat, but many analysts remain unconvinced. After all, if history’s any indication, Thailand is prone to this sort of thing.  

Since the end of the country’s absolute monarchy in 1932, the army has staged 18 successful or attempted coups. (Via Wikimedia Commons

‚ÄčThe current potential coup comes amid a slow-burning political crisis that started six months ago with demonstrations calling for the removal of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.


The protesters alleged she was acting as a puppet leader for her exiled brother — former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. He himself was tossed out of office in a coup eight years ago. (Via BBC, ITN, Arirang)

Two weeks ago, Yingluck and nine of her ministers were removed by the country’s top court on abuse of power charges. The cabinet appointed a caretaker prime minister. (Via Los Angeles Times

That only fueled more protests pitting her supporters, known as the Red Shirts, and against the anti-government Yellow Shirts (Via Euronews) 

The men in uniform have cited this unrest as justification to impose martial law. (Via Euronews

Troops are now patrolling the streets, and the military has taken control of key government buildings. Ten TV stations have been forced off the air. (Via Twitter / @RichardBarrow, Twitter / @ThaipbsEngNews, Twitter / @c4sparks)

An associate professor at the Centre for Southeast Asian Studies at Kyoto University tells Time this would seem to fit the dictionary definition of a coup. “This is about taking away power from the people, taking control of the political situation and human rights.” 

Choosing to call it a coup or not is more than just a matter of semantics. As one expert at City University of Hong Kong told Voice of America“The military is afraid that if they call it a coup and actually remove the caretaker government officially, not de facto like they are doing now, that will provoke the Red Shirts and could lead the country closer to civil war.”

Thailand's army chief said the martial law will remain in place until peace and order is restored.