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Military still on top on first anniversary of latest Thai coup

May 22, 2015 - THAILAND

The army is still firmly in control one year after it stepped in to end months of confrontation between the government and its opponents, but troubles lie ahead for the generals if they don't fix the economy, or if they step too hard on ousted prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra.

The 2014 coup was the 12th since constitutional monarchy was established in 1932. New unrest might be averted if the generals adopt a practice of several previous juntas, which tackled development and made way in reasonable time for civilian governments.

Yingluck and her brother, former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a 2006 coup, enjoy wide support. She was elected in a landslide in 2011.

In January Thailand's military-appointed legislature voted to impeach Yingluck for her role in overseeing a government rice subsidy program that lost billions of dollars. She has also been indicted on criminal charges for negligence related to losses and alleged corruption in the rice scheme. The first hearing is set for May 19. If convicted, she faces 10 years in jail. Her supporters, and the supporters of her brother, have largely gone to ground but could be expected to resurface to stir up opposition if she is imprisoned.

According to the Economist, the economy has stopped growing because exports are stagnant, consumption is sluggish and investment and tourism figures have declined. The British magazine reports that most seasoned observers say that the latest spell of army rule will blow over like the last one, which was soon followed by civilian rule and the elections that Yingluck won in a landslide. Military leader Prem Tinsulanonda made his mark during his 1983-1988 rule with infrastructure expansion and a major restoration of the economy that built on rapid industrialization and foreign investment.

Thailand and the Coup Trap (NYT 1 Jan 2015)

Thailand military seizes power in coup (BBC 22 May 2014)

Thai legislature votes to impeach former PM Yingluck (France24 23 Jan 2015)

Date written/update: 2015-04-21