Global Politics

Could the protests in Thailand lead to another coup?

Thai Protests_CROP.jpg

Credit: Chaiwat Subprasom/ Reuters

An anti-government protester blows a whistle and holds a banner during a rally in central Bangkok January 15, 2014.

Thailand's Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra is determined to go forward with elections on February 2nd despite ongoing protests in the nation's capital, Bangkok.

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(This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the full interview.)

On Monday, the opposition Democratic Party led by Suthep Thaugsuban launched a "Shutdown Bangkok" campaign.  Blocking intersections and setting up camps around the city, this round of protests come after months of unrest in the Thai capital. 

Thaugsuban and his supports are calling for the removal of Yingluck and not new elections, rather the implementation of a "People's Council" to enact reforms. Thaugsuban has even gone so far as threaten to "capture" Yingluck if her government refuses to give in to opposition demands.

"There's a lot of sense that we're headed toward a possible coup," Bangkok-based, freelance journalist Ron Gluckman says. 

A coup in Thailand is par for the course according to Gluckman. "They've had more coups than anywhere else in the region."

Over the past 80 years, there's been a upwards of 18 coups -- that's on average one coup every five years.

This latest unrest in Bangkok stems from a referendum that Prime Minister Yingluck tried to push through parliament in October that would grant a widespread amnesty to political dissidents. One of those dissidents, the former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who is Yingluck's brother, and is currently in exile.  Protesters have accused Yingluck of being under the control of her brother.

Many supporters of the exiled Shinawatra and the prime minister, are in the northern and more rural part of the country according to Gluckman. That's where rallies have started in support of the current government.

"The huge concern is if some of the northerners come to Bangkok and they clash, which is what happened in 2010," said Gluckman.  Those clashes in 2010 resulted in the deaths of nearly 100 people.

With elections a few weeks out and protesters insisting on boycotting those elections, resolution to the conflict seems unlikely says Gluckman.

"There's not a lot of compromise. What the opposition is proposing is a suspension of the constitution, it seems like a couple of steps backwards."

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