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Government by Coup

  1. Military Coup 24 June 1932
  2. Military Coup 20 June 1933
  3. Boworadet Rebellion 11 Oct 1933
  4. Songsuradet Rebellion 29 Jan 1939
  5. Military Coup 08 Nov 1947
  6. Military Coup 01 Oct 1948
  7. "Grand Palace Coup" 26 Feb 1949
  8. "Manhattan Coup" 29 Jun 1951
  9. "Silent Coup" 29 Nov 1951
  10. Military Coup 16 Sep 1957
  11. Military Coup 20 Oct 1958
  12. Military Coup 17 Nov 1971
  13. "Democratic Coup" 1973
  14. Military Coup 06 Oct 1976
  15. Military Coup 26 Mar 1977
  16. Military Coup 20 Oct 1977
  17. Military Coup 01 Apr 1981
  18. Military Coup 09 Sep 1985
  19. Military Coup 23 Feb 1991
  20. Military Coup 19 Sep 2006
  21. Military Coup 14 May 2014
Before the change in the system of government in 1932, which was followed by the abdication of King Rama VII two years later, Thailand had been continuously administered as an absolute monarchy for 700 years, throughout the Sukhothai, Ayutthaya, and Rattanakosin periods. During the Rattanakosin Period, the Chakri Dynasty had seven kings who reigned successively.

The change that was to have a significant impact on the Thai system of government began on the 150th anniversary of Bangkok, on the morning of 24 June 1932. A group of people who called themselves "Khana Rat" (the People's Party) started the revolution with the purpose of changing the sys-tem from an absolute monarchy to a democracy, but with the king remaining as the leader. The intention was to create equality for everybody, to provide education for all the people, and to solve the economic problems that were challenging the government at that time.

Following the 1932 revolution which imposed constitutional limits on the monarchy, Thai politics were dominated for a half century by a military and bureaucratic elite. Changes of government were effected primarily by means of a long series of mostly bloodless coups. Since the first constitution was promulgated in 1932, there have been 19 general elections by 2001 accompanied by 19 military coups. Despite this "vicious circle," the Thais have created a "semi-democracy".

Shortly after the war, Seni Pramoj briefly served as prime minister. In May 1946, a new constitution was promulgated. It called for a bicameral legislature with a popularly elected lower house and an upper house elected by the lower house. The name Siam was officially restored. The 1946 elections set the stage for Pridis accession to the prime minstership. However, two weeks after the election Pridi was accused of being implicated in the untimely death of King Ananda Mahidol (Rama VIII, r. 193546), and he resigned and left the country. The new king, Bhumibol Adulyadej (Rama IX, r. 1946 ), who was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1927, had spent the war in Switzerland and returned there after a brief first visit to Thailand in 1945. He did not return to Bangkok to take up his kingly duties until 1951, following a government-engineered coup.

The civilian governments failure eventually led to the restoration of the Phibun military faction. Phibun had been arrested in 1945 as a war criminal but was released soon afterward. A coup in November 1947 ousted the civilian leaders, and Phibun took over as prime minister in April 1948. During his second government (194857), Phibun restored the use of the name Thailand, reintroduced legislation to make Thai social behavior conform to Western standards, improved secondary education, and increased military appropriations.

Military-controlled government continued between 1957 and 1967. There was talk under Prime Minister Sarit Thanarat of a restoration of the king, and a strong popular affection for the monarchy arose. The regime emphasized the kingdoms Buddhist heritage in an effort to gain support from monks for government programs. Anticommunism continued to influence Thailands foreign affairs, and in 1961 Thailand, the Philippines, and newly independent Malaya (since 1963, Malaysia) formed the Association of Southeast Asia (ASA). In 1967 Thailand became a founding member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), a broader regional cooperative organization that replaced the ASA. At the same time, Prime Minister Thanom Kittikachorn decided to shorten the timetable for the countrys transition from the military-dominated leadership structure to a popularly elected government.

In June 1968, a new constitution was proclaimed, but martial law, which had been imposed in 1958, remained in effect. Party politics resumed in 1968, and Thanoms United Thai Peoples Party carried the February 1969 National Assembly elections. The new government, however, had to respond to numerous issues: a Muslim insurgency in southern Thailand, communist guerrillas operating in jungle areas north of the Thai-Malaysian border, the successes of communist forces in Vietnam and Laos, and other regional unrest and protests against the government. In November 1971, Thanom carried out a coup against his own government, thereby ending the three-year experiment in parliamentary democracy. The constitution was suspended, political parties were banned, and the military took full charge in suppressing opposition.

The stern moves by the Thanom regime led to popular dissatisfaction among university students and organized labor, accompanied by growing anti-U.S. sentiments. Some feared Thanom would even overthrow the monarchy and establish a republic. In a demonstration on October 13, 1973, some 250,000 people pressed their grievances against the government. The following day, troops fired on the demonstrators, killing 75 of them. King Bhumibol took a rare direct role, forcing the cabinets resignation; Thanom and his close colleagues were allowed to leave the country secretly. Thammasak University president Sanya Dharmasakti was appointed interim prime minister, and it was he who fully credited the student movement with bringing down the military dictatorship.

A new constitution went into effect in October 1974, providing for a popularly elected House of Representatives. The elections were inconclusive, and conservative Seni Pramoj eventually formed a government that lasted less than a month. His brother, Kukrit Pramoj, then put together a more acceptable centrist coalition that lasted until January 1976. Seni returned as prime minister but only until October 1976, when violent student demonstrations were suppressed by security forces, and Seni was ousted. A military junta took control of the government, declared martial law, annulled the constitution, banned political parties, and strictly censored the media.

The new government, led by Prime Minister Thanin Kraivichien, a strident anticommunist, was more repressive in many ways than the earlier military regimes. Strict censorship continued, and the regime tightly controlled labor unions and purged suspected communists from the civil service and educational institutions. As a result, many students joined the communist insurgency. Thanin was replaced in 1977 by General Kriangsak Chomanand. He promulgated a new constitution in December 1978 with a popularly elected House of Representatives and an appointed Senate, but the military controlled cabinet and Senate appointments. Economic instability, however, brought down the Kriangsak government in March 1980.

The new prime minster, who was the commander in chief of the army and minister of defense, General Prem Tinsulanonda, came to power by consensus among key politicians. He gave civilians a greater role in government by appointing civilians to his cabinet. A coup attempt in 1981 weakened Prems government, and there was continual dissension among the civilian members of the government. Despite student and farmer demonstrations, Prem was reappointed as prime minister in April 1983. He survived a coup attempt in September 1985 and elections in July 1986.

Beginning with the brief experiment in democracy during the mid-1970s, civilian democratic political institutions slowly gained greater authority, culminating in July 1988 when Chatichai Choonavan -- leader of the Thai Nation Party -- assumed office as the country's first democratically elected prime minister in more than a decade. The following years saw a series of military-led governments, efforts to reform, coups, new elections, and coalition party politics. Reforms were introduced in the business sector, the government allowed increased foreign investment, and relations with Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam improved. Charges of corruption and abuse of power abounded, however, and Chatichai was removed from power in a bloodless coup in February 1991.

Shortly afterward, the military appointed Anand Panyarachun, a businessman and former diplomat, to head a largely civilian interim government and promised to hold elections in the near future. However, following inconclusive elections, former army commander Suchinda Kraprayoon was appointed prime minister. Thais reacted to the appointment by demanding an end to military influence in government. Demonstrations were violently suppressed by the military; in May 1992, soldiers killed at least 50 protesters.

Domestic and international reaction to the violence forced Suchinda to resign, and the nation once again turned to Anand Panyarachun, who was named interim prime minister until new elections in September 1992. In those elections, the political parties that had opposed the military in May 1992 won by a narrow majority, and Chuan Leekpai, a leader of the Democratic Party, became Prime Minister. Chuan dissolved Parliament in May 1995, and the Thai Nation Party won the largest number of parliamentary seats in subsequent elections. Party leader Banharn Silpa-archa, became Prime Minister, but held the office only little more than a year.

Following elections held in November 1996, Chavalit Youngchaiyudh formed a coalition government and became Prime Minister. The onset of the Asian financial crisis caused a loss of confidence in the Chavalit government and forced him to hand over power to Chuan Leekpai in November 1997. Chuan formed a coalition government based on the themes of prudent economic management and institution of political reforms mandated by Thailand's 1997 constitution. Thaksin Shinawatra became Prime Minister on February 9, 2001. His Thai Rai Thai party holds over half the 500 seats of the lower house of Parliament. This former telecommunications CEO appeared to be making headway in the economic recovery, but corruption and drug problems remained.

On August 24, 2006, police intercepted an explosives-laden automobile, operated by a former driver in the Internal Security Operations Command, near Thaksin's residence in Thonburi. Although critics accused Thaksin of fabricating the plot to boost his popularity in the upcoming October general elections, five army officers were arrested for their role in the plot. Before new elections could be held, in September 2006 a group of top military officers overthrew the caretaker Thaksin administration in a non-violent coup detat, repealed the 1997 constitution, and dissolved both houses of parliament. The coup leaders promulgated an interim constitution and appointed Surayud Chulanont as interim Prime Minister.

Three of the alledged bomb-plotters were released after the military overthrew the Thaksin government in September. According to a white paper issued by the military in November 2006, causes of the coup were corruption, abuse of power, lack of integrity, interference in the checks and balances system, human rights violations, and destroying the unity of the people during the leadership of the Thaksin government.

In a national referendum in August 2007, a majority of Thai voters approved a new constitution drafted by an assembly appointed by the coup leaders. The interim government held multi-party elections under provisions of the new constitution in December 2007, and the pro-Thaksin People's Power Party (PPP) won a plurality of 233 of the 480 seats in the lower house of parliament.

By 2011 Royal Thai Navy Commander-in-Chief Admiral Kamthorn Pumhiran tried to avoid a partisan position by staying neutral in politics, with a small role in cracking down on United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship's demonstrators in May 2010. The Navy leader was believed to disagree with the decisive measures used against the anti-government Redshirt protesters. That could have put him out of favor with the government and with other military leaders. Adm. Kamthorn is a classmate of ousted Prime Minister and fugitive from justice Thaksin Shinawatra. Both belonged to Class 10 at the Armed Forces Academies Preparatory School. He might have been viewed by anti-Thaksin figures as a 'watermelon" soldier' [green on the outside, red on the inside, ie, a closet subversive].

In February 2012 Defense Minister Air Chief Marshal Sukumpol Suwanatat demanded that Pheu Thai Party List MP Mr. Jatuporn Prompan stop spreading rumors about a military coup, while also urging those opposing the lese majeste law to stop their movement. According to the Defense Minister, Mr. Jatuporn said he had received an inside information from the American intelligence agency which, he claimed, that another coup was in the making and slated to take place in April. The Air Chief Marshal said the U.S. would have come to him instead of Mr. Jatuporn had the information been true. He added that, while the information remains unverified, Mr. Jatuporn should not have made such a statement as it would provoke undue chaos. He has reassured, in his capacity as the head of the Thai Defense Ministry, that the military will do no such thing.

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