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Thailand is known for its beaches, streetfood, arts and culture.
But it's also been home to more military coup d'états than any other country in modern history.
Thailand's political turmoil can be traced back to 1932 when the first coup took place.
The military's sudden seizure of power from the government
ended centuries of absolute rule by the monarchy.
New Mandala, an academic blog on Southeast Asian affairs, found Thailand has had 13 successful
and 9 unsuccessful coups in just over a century.
The most recent was in 2014.
But, the country's recent divisive politics, has been attributed by many to the rise of
this man - Thaksin Shinawatra.
Thaksin's a telecommunications billionaire who was elected Prime Minister in 2001.
He offered voters incentives like cheap medical care and debt relief, as well as subsidies
for farmers, making him so popular that he became the first democratically elected Thai
prime minister to serve a full term.
He also won re-election by a landslide in 2005.
That spooked powerful senior bureaucrats, who worked closely with the palace.
The following year the Thai military toppled him in a coup while he was in New York City,
about to address the United Nations.
Since then, there's been a constant tug of war for power between two bitterly divided camps.
They're called the 'red shirts' and the 'yellow shirts.'
Both have led massive protests, with the 'yellow shirts' taking over the Thai Parliament
and the airport in 2008, while the 'red shirts' led two months of protests in 2010.
The Red Shirts are seen as the voters loyal to Thaksin, while royalists who opposed him
took on the color yellow, the color of the King.
Then in 2014, general Prayuth Chan-o-cha successfully overthrew
the then-Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, Thaksin's sister.
Prayuth has been in power since.
But some political scientists say the turmoil is about more than just Thaksin.
Take for instance the CoupCast project.
It details more than 60 factors that increase the risk of a military coup.
Let's look at two of these. The first, a history of having coups.
Research shows if countries have already experienced a coup,
they're more vulnerable to having another one.
Thailand has developed what experts call a “coup culture.”
Now, that doesn't mean that Thai culture itself is prone to coups.
What it does mean is that there has been a normalization of military takeovers.
They are seen as an acceptable way to solve a political crisis,
and often it's the public calling for the military to step in.
The second key factor relates to the country's form of government.
Coup attempts rarely happen in countries that are fully dictatorial or fully democratic.
But those with systems that include a bit of both, like Thailand, are more susceptible.
Since Thailand's first coup in 1932, the country has had 29 prime ministers.
That's nearly double the number of presidents the U.S. has had in that same time period.
Throughout these turbulent times the Thai Monarchy has remained popular.
The country has one of the strictest lese majeste laws in the world,
which forbids insult of the monarchy.
King Bhumibol Adulyadej was crowned in 1950 and was
deeply respected throughout his rein of nearly seven decades.
At the time of his death in October 2016, he was the longest serving monarch in the world.
He was succeeded by his only son, King Vajiralongkorn, who was crowned in 2019.
In February, the new king's older sister Ubolratana Rajakanya announced
she was going to join a party aligned to the Shinawatra's,
and that she was vying for the role of Prime Minister.
It was a historic first.
A senior royal had never participated in politics before.
And even though the princess no longer had royal titles following her marriage to a commoner
in the 1970s, it still made international headlines.
Some hoped the princess could be the bridge between the red and yellow shirts.
But the King said that her candidacy was inappropriate.
Her nomination was rejected, and the party that she joined was subsequently dissolved.
The following month it was time for the 2019 election.
Even though Thaksin Shinawatra was still in exile the third incarnation of his political
party, now the Pheu Thai party, won the most seats.
It failed however to get an overall majority and the party's
attempts to form a coalition government were unsuccessful.
Instead parliament elected general Prayuth Chan-o-cha to the top office,
allowing him to continue to serve as prime minister,
despite claims from opposition leaders that the vote was rigged.
It's been more than five years since Thailand's last coup.
So, does that mean the country will break out of its historic cycle?
With a new king and new parties springing up, the world can only wait and see.
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Why does Thailand have so many coups? | CNBC Explains

38 Folder Collection
Taka published on December 27, 2019
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