The military of Thailand, a constitutional monarchy since 1932, has carried out its 18th coup d’etat since then, ostensibly because rival political factions could not bring stability to the country’s government.
The armed forces had warned the competing civilian groups, the so-called red shirts and yellow shirts, to stop demonstrating and work out an agreement. There were inconclusive meetings between the groups, with no outcome the Thai military considered satisfactory. It took power last week.
The red shirts support the family of exiled billionaire Thaksin Shinawatra and his sister, Yingluck Shinawatra, who was recently forced out as prime minister. The group’s strength is greater in rural areas of Thailand; it is, in general, more popular. It has won all recent elections.
The yellow shirts’ strength lies mainly in urban areas of Thailand. They are considered supporters of the ailing king, Bhumibol Adulyadej, 86, although he has stayed above the fray.
The coup presents a problem for the United States. It is not, by law, supposed to be involved with military forces that stage takeovers. The U.S. military has cooperative dealings with Thailand’s forces, spending $13 million a year and holding joint exercises.
The Obama Administration ignored that law in Egypt, pretending its armed forces did not overthrow the nation’s elected president in a coup last July. The Thailand affair could come out all right, but only if the military keeps power just briefly, until civilian leaders can broker an arrangement.