Will There Be Another Coup in Thailand?

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Thailand has a reputation for military coups, there have been 19 since 1932! What should you do if you're there when a coup takes place?


Military Coup Photo © iStock.com/Akabei

Since 1912, Thailand has had a notable history of military coups. The latest occurred in May 2014 following the 2013/14 political crisis.  Thousands of Thais protested across the country, resulting in the removal of the then Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. He was replaced by Niwatthamrong Boonsongpaisan, who was himself deposed three weeks later in a military coup led by General Prayut Chan-o-cha, Commander of the Royal Thai Army.

In years past, some coups have turned ugly with the military cracking down on protests resulting in bloody encounters in 2010 and 2014. Anti-government protesters, including dissidents from southern Thailand, have also carried out bombings in response to government decisions.

Who's Who in Thailand's Coups

The Red Shirts – originally formed by supporters of the controversial Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in the 2006 coup, and forced into exile.

The group occupied central Bangkok in 2010, complaining their party had been illegally and unfairly dismissed even though they won the post-coup election.

Known as UDD - the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship support the populist, mostly rural-based party Pheu Thai. the party was led by Thaksin's sister, Yingluck, until her arrest and removal in 2014, during the military coup. The party has many supporters but little power.

The Yellow Shirts, also known as the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD), are a movement of royalist, upper and middle class, and mostly Bangkok-based Thais opposed to Thaksin Shinawatra. It is smaller in size but holds all the key power positions in Thai society.

It was the Yellow Shirts who occupied the international airport in 2008 (leaving 1,500 travelers stranded for a week), protesting the victory of pro-Shinawatra parties in the post-coup election. The protests lead to the dismissal of that government. They were also responsible for driving the 2008 Cambodian-Thai border standoff.

What Will Happen if There's Another Coup in Thailand?

Airports in Bangkok and Phuket have been locations of protest occupation in the past, so airports could once again be a target. The Thai military will be swift in their response which could mean tighter security and delays for passengers.

Ratchaprasong Square was previously occupied in 2010, so it's possible the square could again become a focal protest site. With the anticipated military response, popular tourist districts could be closed amid tighter security.

With the ascension of Maha Vajiralongkorn, the late Thai king's son, to the throne in December 2016, there are rumors of attempts to wrestle back power from the military junta currently in control of Thailand.

What to Do If There's a Coup

Everything might seem calm, but coup situations are unpredictable. If you see a political protest or demonstration at any time - walk the other way.

  • Avoid public gatherings or demonstrations, and areas where you see police or military movement
  • Monitor local media reports and follow the advice of police and military
  • If you suspect unrest or violence has broken out close to you, remain in your hotel room and follow the instructions of staff, police and military authorities
  • If you're in Bangkok, exercise extreme caution while moving around areas which were part of the Redshirts protests as they could be the focal point of further unrest
  • Advise your country's embassy, friends and family of your location via phone, email, social media or on your travel blog, just in case the situation deteriorates.

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  • Amanda Guy said

    Hi Just wanting to know if travel to Bankok is safe for the 23rd June as my son is travelling over with 44 other students and 10 teachers from st phillips christian college in newcasle australia going straight to Bangkok airport to hotel at Kanchanaburri they will be there untill 28 June then flying to saigon and staying untill 05 July then returning home to Australia This is a school excursion any advice you can give me would be helpful. Thanks

  • PhilSylvester said

    Hi Amanda, hard to say right now.... the military announced their coup just today.
    As long as it doesn't go "pear-shaped" any further those plans seem fine because they take you away from the flash-points. But I expect you'll have some nervous parents with a bit to say on the subject.
    You'll have a better handle on the situation in coming days. Keep an eye on developments.

  • Kamonchat said

    A Thai overhere. First of all, you don’t have to worry about the coup. They are not going to hurt or attack anyone, especially an innocent foreigner. That’s for sure. They are just a group of people closing down the street and places from time to time. My school is just 500m from where they used to set up their base and all I see is a big market with people protesting in the back. They even give away free food for others that passing by and you don’t have to be a protester to get those. It’s not as scary as the media trying to tell you.

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