Thailand has had the most coup than any other country. This is why.

According to the Washington Post article below, Thailand has had more coups that any other country in the world. The article explains in detail why the country is so prone to military coups and why is it so easy for the military to take over the government. Jay Ulfelder is a political scientist who specializes in state failure. Although he isn’t a Thailand expert, he has done a lot of research on coups and the risk that it might lead to. It is an interesting read to get an idea on the factors that have been affected resulting from the coup.

Thailand has had more coups than any other countries. This is why.

Thailand has been engulfed in political crisis for a week now, with street protests pushing to outright topple the government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. The crisis is especially serious given that Thailand has experienced more coups d’état than any other country in contemporary history. Scholars sometimes describe the era beginning in 1932 and running up through today as Thailand’s “coup season.” Since 1932, Thailand has endured an astonishing 11 successful military coups, as well as seven attempted coups.

Thailand-watchers are divided on whether this crisis appears likely to spark successful coup number 12. Joshua Kurlantzick of the Council on Foreign Relations says it could. The Economist’s writer in Bangkok argues a coup is unlikely at this point.

To better understand why Thailand has so many coups, whether we should worry about another one and what makes countries susceptible to coups in general, I talked to Jay Ulfelder, a political scientist who specializes in state failure and also works as a consultant. While not a Thailand expert, Jay has done lots of research on coups and the risk factors that can lead to them. A lightly edited version of our e-mail exchange follows.

WorldViews: What are some of the most important factors that make countries susceptible to coups? Does Thailand appear to have those?

Jay Ulfelder: The most informative factors in thinking about coup risk are a country’s wealth, its form of government, and the recent occurrence of coup activity. Coup attempts very rarely happen in countries that are rich, either fully dictatorial or fully democratic, and have no coup activity in the recent past. Almost all coup attempts, successful or failed, occur in countries that are relatively poor and have political regimes that mix features of autocracy and democracy.

These mixed regimes are especially susceptible to coups when politics within them is sharply polarized, as it has been in Thailand for nearly a decade now.

Coup activity also tends to cluster, so countries that have seen one or more attempts in the past five years are several times as likely to get hit by another than countries that have been coup-free for a while. We saw this pattern recently in Mali and Egypt, among other places.

Thailand has some important risk factors but not others, so it winds up in the middle of the global pack in terms of risk. It has a mixed regime with sharply polarized politics, but it’s now a middle-income country, and it’s managed to muddle along without another coup attempt since 2006. Of course, coups are very rare events — nowadays, we usually only see a handful of attempts worldwide each year — so even being in the middle of the pack translates into a very low likelihood, like less than 5 percent.

Thai military personnel stand guard at the Government House in Bangkok. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)

WorldViews: You and others have suggested that Thailand’s protesters, led by opposition political figure Suthep Thaugsuban, appear to be trying to spark another military coup. How likely does it look that they’ll be successful?

Jay Ulfelder: An annual statistical forecast gives us a good starting point for thinking about whether or not the [opposition] Democrat Party’s attempt to provoke a coup will succeed, but it would be silly to ignore the new information we get as politics unfolds over the course of that year. The fact that Suthep Thaugsuban and co. have managed to manufacture a crisis from which a coup might offer a (temporary) exit suggests that the probability of an extra-constitutional exit for Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra is certainly higher than it was several weeks ago.

I’m not an expert on Thai politics, and I have no inside information on what the relevant players are considering, so it’s hard for me to say with much confidence just how much that risk has increased. As a generalist who knows the statistics, though, I would guess that the crisis will resolve without a full-blown coup attempt, by which I mean the removal of [Yingluck] and the Pheu Thai Party from power by extra-constitutional means involving the use or threat of force by political or military insiders.

WorldViews: Thailand has had more coups in the recent past than perhaps any other country. Is there something particular about Thailand that has made it so historically susceptible to coups?

Jay Ulfelder: Yes, Thailand is unusual in this regard. I’ll leave it to the country experts to speculate on why that’s the case, though. I don’t see anything in the historical data on risk factors that makes Thailand stick out as much as its coup-prone history suggests it should. That’s a challenge for a future round of model-building.

WorldViews: Does Thailand’s history of coups, in itself, make future coups more likely?

Jay Ulfelder: Yes, as noted in my response to your first question. As for why, I wrote a blog post about the “coup trap” last year. As I said there, my statistical models aren’t designed to test specific hypotheses about why coups recur, so I don’t want to make any strong statements about that.

I will say, though, that the patterns highlighted by these and many similar models strengthen my own belief that confidence plays a crucial role in politics and political stability. Whether they succeed or fail, coup attempts often disrupt established relationships among political elites. These disruptions increase elites’ uncertainty about the intentions of their potential rivals, and the proximity of the last attempt may lead them to overestimate the likelihood of the next one.

In a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy, this intensification of uncertainty strengthens incentives to try to seize power before the other guys do. Once trust has dissolved, no one wants to be the sucker who keeps cooperating while the other guys are all planning to fink.

 

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How does businesses get affected in Thailand’s coup?

Immediately after the military announced the coup on Thailand, the currency for the country was one of the lowest it had ever been. Businesses are struggling to make ends meet to survive in a politically chaotic environment the country has unfortunately found itself in. The article below discusses how Thailand’s GDP was affected after the coup and what it means for Thailand’s future economy.

How Thailand’s Coup Could Affect its Economy

On Thursday, Thailand’s army chief, Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha, announced on national television that the military was seizing powerfrom the government. The coup came two days after martial law was enacted, capping months of political deadlock and street protests that have killed 28 people and injured hundreds more. (Thailand also experienced a military-backed coup in 2006, and another in 1991, and several before that.) The military is curtailing civil liberties — for example, instituting a 10 p.m.-to-5 a.m. curfew — but there may also be economic consequences, such as slow tourism and hesitancy from foreign investors.

Economic aftershocks after a coup are difficult to analyze and conditional on how violent and tumultuous the period becomes. In most cases, coups slow growth, according to a 1996 study, “Political Instability and Economic Growth.” But after Thailand’s 2006 coup, economic growth held steady and tourism slowed only slightly.

A statistical analysis and probabilistic simulation by political scientist and consultant Jay Ulfelder, at his blog Dart-Throwing Chimp, shows that economic growth slows, on average, by 2.1 percentage points in the year of a coup, 1.3 points in the year after and 0.2 points in the year after that.

flowers-datalab-thaicoup-1

But, as Ulfelder has outlined, poor economic conditions could be a coup’s main cause as much a consequence of it. Even before the most recent coup in Thailand, the country’s real gross domestic product growth slowed; political instability over the past few months was the primary reason. To work through these thorny causal issues and best isolate a coup’s effect, Ulfelder employed a statistical technique that matched countries with similar risks of coups. (Ulfelder’s code for running these simulations is available on GitHub. Try it out.)

There’s also research by Paul Collier, a professor of economics at Oxford University, organized in his 2009 book, “Wars, Guns, and Votes: Democracy in Dangerous Places.” Collier looked at income instead of GDP and found that the shock of a coup reduces income by about 3.5 percent in the year of the coup and by a cumulative total of 7 percent. Collier’s work – in several research papers (here andhere) – also studies why coups happen. He found that slow economic growth and low income levels can be used to predict coups, but that in addition to those poor conditions, high military spending can forebode regime change.

In Thailand’s case, its economy has been growing slowly, with average annual growth between 2004 and 2012 at less than 4 percent. Thailand’s neighbors Vietnam and Indonesia have grown, on average, 6.4 and 5.7 percent, respectively, over the same period, according to World Bank data. Thailand’s military spending (as a percentage of all government spending) has also been on the rise.

Ulfelder also forecasts countries prone to coups. His 2014 rankingshad Thailand marked as the 10th most vulnerable country, with just over a 10 percent probability. In his latest blog entry, he said he was a “bit surprised by this turn of events, but not shocked.”

The future political state of Thailand

The political future of Thailand may look bleak, with the chaotic military movement in the country. Thailand has celebrated its country’s democracy for many years now but the people that have fought hard for its democracy never realized that it is indeed a country that has been robbed of its freedom back in 2006, unknowingly. The article below discusses Thailand’s political future that is now in the military’s hands.

 Thailand’s Coup Will Worsen Political Crisis

Two days after declaring martial law, the Royal Thai Army has launched a coup in a bid to end the violent conflict between government supporters and opposition forces.

Historians may debate whether to consider the imposition of martial law as the start of the real coup, although some have already called it a soft or disguised coup. For now, the essential question is whether it will succeed in solving the country’s political crisis.

Based on Thailand’s history of coups over the past century, there is little reason to suggest the current military intervention will restore political stability. It is possible that Thailand’s deep political divisions can partially be attributed to the 2006 coup, which led to the ouster of then Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

When the army announced the suspension of the 2007 Constitution (excluding provisions concerning the monarchy), several Thai analysts noted it was the army that drafted the document. Perhaps it will initiate the drafting of a new constitution to again this time reform the country’s political system. But what if the envisioned reforms don’t materialize?

Understandably, there are many Thais who have already grown weary of the incessant political fighting in recent years. Many have also become cynical toward the electoral process, which has been discredited because of the money involved. Perhaps for these reasons, among others, some frustrated Thais favor intervention by the military to restore the country’s confidence in its political system.

But Thailand’s political impasse can partially be laid at the army’s feet. Through the 12 successful coups it has staged since 1932, the army has had several opportunities to prove that it can be the key to stabilizing Thai politics. This has yet to happen, so why repeat the process over and over?

Some Bangkok residents may have felt relieved to see their streets clear of anti-government protesters, or government supporters threatening to launch political action. The police were unable to disperse the protesters over the past six months, yet the army did so within the last two days.

As a result, the army imposed a nighttime curfew, banned public gathering of five or more people, and closed down TV and radio stations. When martial law was declared, free speech was threatened. The army deployed soldiers to control the newsrooms and offices of media stations, and attempted to censor social media.

The protesters have gone home, but the army is now in control of the government. Before the coup, there were reports that elections would be conducted after substantial reforms were undertaken over the next two years. After the coup, election chatter was replaced by news of the army chief becoming the country’s de facto prime minister.

Even as Thailand’s neighbor Myanmar formally shuns direct military rule in favor of a shift toward a parliamentary democracy, Thailand seems to be regressing.

Many Thais claimed they were not afraid to see soldiers patrolling key intersections in Bangkok, the country’s capital. Some of them even snapped photos of themselves with these soldiers. Take away these happy snaps, however, and what is left is the image of an old guard seeking to silence dissent and take power.

Thailand’s democracy is imperfect, but it is not beyond redemption. With its coup, the military has made it more difficult to fix the problems that challenge Thai society.

 

Social Media’s Role in Thailand’s Coup

We all are aware of the influence of social media in our daily lives and even more so, when it comes to breaking news and current affairs. The article below interviews journalist Thepchai Yong about the current restrictions the media must abide to and the future developments of the country that has been seized of its power. Yong added that the current role of social media is proving to be tremendous, to an extent where it is challenging traditional media. However, this challenge has come way before the crisis the country is going through.

Influence of Social Media on Thai Crisis “tremendous”

The coup d’état in Thailand is entering its second month. The military recently presented a roadmap to draft a new constitution and announced that elections will only take place after October 2015.

In a DW interview, Thepchai Yong, chief editor of Nation Multimedia Group, the second largest English-language media publisher, says that the political turmoil in the Southeast Asian nation is not just a matter of the poor versus the rich as major international broadcasters tend to portray the situation in the country.

DW: Thailand’s military emphasizes its neutral role as an organizer of reforms. Do you agree?

Thepchai Yong: Under normal circumstances I wouldn’t want to trust those men in uniform, because their attitude towards democracy is quite different from the rest of the society. But this time it seems to be different. At least the military junta has put forth a so called road map that is supposed to pave the way for Thailand to eventually return to democracy after the general election, which will be held only after 15 months in October next year.

Members of the Thai society are divided over the timeframe. Thai people are facing a dilemma. While many say 15 months are too long, others are of the view that as the military is doing a good job, it’s alright if the elections are delayed.

The junta has also promised certain commitments that must be met. For instance, it promised to set up an interim civilian government within three months and then an assembly to draft a new constitution.

Thai military recently announced that the elections will only take place after October 2015

More importantly they promised to set up a council that will undertake comprehensive reforms. Therefore, I have currently no reasons to question the junta’s commitment, although it remains to be seen whether they will end up being reformist as they promised or not.

How do you estimate the impact of recent developments on Thailand’s democracy?

The diametrical data came as a big shock to most Thai people. But for many Thais the power seizure brought some relief as they are aware that the alternative would have been worse, particularly due to the ongoing political conflict that had the potential to develop into a violent confrontation.

If we believe in what the junta is saying, we see possibilities of the country returning to democracy in 15 months. I believe the positive side of this development is that we have seen a more politically active Thai public.

Young people, who otherwise would have been very passive about politics, got up and joined the protests this time around on either side of the spectrum. I think this is a clear demonstration that we are seeing a more politically active public. That will be an important force in Thailand’s politics in the future.

Although Thailand’s junta recently lifted a nationwide curfew, political protests remain banned. HRW’s John Sifton explains why crackdowns on freedom of expression and association will continue in the polarized country. (17.06.2014)

Can the media in Thailand still fulfill its watchdog role?

We have to admit that we are operating under restrictions. There is a standing order imposed by the junta that restricts media freedom. But in practice things are different from what is seen from the outside. Naturally the junta wants the media to be on their side, but they have been very diplomatic in handling the media.

So they may give you a phone call once in a while when there are stories that do not please them but I haven’t seen any obvious attempt by the junta to clamp down on the media as such.

But I have to admit that we are operating under circumstances we are not comfortable with. I believe, however, that the media have been able to play a certain role by reflecting the views of the public.

What role is social media playing at the moment in Thailand?

I think the influence of the social media had been tremendous even before the latest political conflict and the power seizure. Like in most countries the traditional media are being challenged. With the political conflict the influence of the social media has increased because the young people who ignore the mainstream media go to social media to share their views and to talk among themselves on topics they are familiar with.

As far as the political conflicts are concerned, we see a new generation of people who otherwise would have been very passive or ignorant about current affairs. They are getting more active on social media, exchanging views on political situation and expressing their opinions where they want the country to go. It is an important force that will be helpful for Thai democracy.

How do you evaluate international media coverage on the events in Thailand?

The situation in Thailand is very complex. I understand the difficulty of international media to really try to reflect what happens in the country. So far the international media has not reflected the real gist of the issue in Thailand. They may be able to reflect the events as they unfold and as they see them, but they have not been really able to explain what is behind the whole issue.

For example, most of the major international broadcasters tend to portray the situation in Thailand as a battle between the so called Bangkok elites and rural poor. In fact I have to admit there is some inequality between the city and the rural areas, but the inequality is not the real or the only reason why the people didn’t see eye to eye on the political issues.

This is one example why the international media miss the gist of the situation. It is not easy for them to talk to people more and get in depth information and understanding of what really is going on.

What is the core of the conflict in Thailand then?

The whole thing has been the result of a new political awakening of Thai people. It doesn’t matter which side they support. The thing is important that they wake up and think they need to be actively involved in the future of the country. That is where the confrontation begins. It is not just a matter of the poor versus the rich.

 

Is it safe for traveler’s to visit Thailand after the coup?

Since Thailand’s military movement announced its control over the government, how safe is it for tourists to visit one of South East Asia’s popular destinations? This article posted on CNN.com discusses the various steps tourists should take in order to understand the current situation in Thailand. There are various hotline numbers available that you should consider putting in your speed dial, just in case things go about differently. 

Is Thailand safe for Tourists? Essential Info for Travelers.

Bangkok, Thailand (CNN) — Thailand’s military announced Thursday that it has taken control of the government.

Here’s what that means for travelers visiting one of Asia’s most popular tourist destinations.

The biggest implication of the coup — declared after rival factions were unable to come up with a suitable agreement to govern — is the nationwide curfew, in effect from 10 p.m.-5 a.m. until further notice.

However, the military said air passengers with arrival and departure flights scheduled during the curfew are permitted to travel to and from the airports at any time, and are advised to carry a printout of their flight itinerary.

All airports in Thailand remain open and flights are still operating as scheduled.

On the ground in Bangkok and beyond

On the ground in Bangkok on Friday morning, streets are calm and most residents are carrying on with their lives as normal, though military checkpoints have been set up at various locations throughout the country.

Since the coup announcement was made, protest groups on both sides have dismantled their camps in line with the army’s ban on gatherings of five people or more.

The military announced a nationwide closure of schools until Sunday, though some international schools remained open.

All foreigners, regardless of whether they are tourists or residents, are advised to carry their passports with them at all times.

Tourist attractions, government offices, embassies, shops, restaurants and malls are still open, though some have adjusted their hours in line with the curfew.

All Bangkok expressways currently remain open.

The city’s BTS Skytrain, MRT subway, Suvarnabhumi Airport Rail Link, public ferries and trains continue to operate, though hours have been adjusted in line with the curfew.

Taxis were reportedly available at both airports for passengers arriving after the curfew, though travelers posting on social media reported experiencing longer lines than usual.

All popular tourist destinations outside of Bangkok, including Phuket, Chiang Mai and Krabi, are all operating as normal and there is a limited military presence on the streets, according to reports, though popular night spots closed early on Thursday night due to the curfew.

MORE: Soldiers, selfies and a military coup: The unusual state of tourism in Thailand

Television and social media

All state-run, satellite and cable TV providers have been ordered to carry only the signal of the army’s television channel.

CNN is among those networks that have been taken off the air.

In an announcement on their Facebook page, the military government announced that Thai citizens should not believe rumors that they will shut down the internet, social media or Youtube.

Though there are reports the military is monitoring social media and will block any content perceived as a threat to national security, as of Friday morning all websites and apps were working normally.

With TV stations now off the air, Twitter is one of the best ways to get real-time information on the situation in Bangkok.

Richard Barrow, a full-time travel blogger based in Bangkok, is a top source for those seeking news about the protests as well as travel advice. He can be followed at Twitter.com/richardbarrow.

Local English-language media on Twitter include the Bangkok Post:Twitter.com/BPbreakingnews; The Nation: Twitter.com/nationnews; and MCOT: Twitter.com/MCOT_Eng.

MORE: Thailand coup: A cheat sheet to get you up to speed

Government warnings

Tourists are advised to check with their governments before traveling to Thailand, as warnings vary and can impact the validity of their travel insurance.

In a statement following the coup announcement, the United States Embassy in Bangkok issued an emergency message.

“U.S. citizens are advised to stay alert, exercise caution, and monitor media coverage,” it said.

“You are advised to avoid areas where there are protest events, large gatherings, or security operations and follow the instructions of Thai authorities. “

In response to the coup, the Hong Kong government raised itsOutbound Travel Alert for Thailand to red, indicating it feels residents face a significant threat by visiting.

“Residents intending to visit Thailand should adjust their travel plans and avoid non-essential travel, including leisure travel,” says the statement.

“Those already there should monitor the situation, exercise caution, attend to personal safety and avoid protests and large gatherings of people.”

Tourist hotlines

The Tourism Authority of Thailand issued a statement advising tourists seeking assistance to call the following hotlines.

TAT Call Centre: 1672

Tourist Police Call Centre: 1155

BTS Hotline: +66 (0) 2617 6000

MRT Customer Relations Center: +66 (0) 2624 5200

SRT (train service) Call Center: 1690

Transport Co., Ltd., (inter-provincial bus service) Call Center: 1490

AOT (Suvarnabhumi Airport) Call Centre: 1722

Suvarnabhumi Airport Operation Center: +66 (0) 2132 9950 or 2

Don Mueang Airport Call Center: +66 (0) 2535 3861, (0) 2535 3863

Thai Airways International Call Center: +66 (0) 2356 1111

Bangkok Airways Call Center: 1771

Nok Air Call Center: 1318

Thai AirAsia Call Center: +66 (0) 2515 9999