BANGKOK — A Defense Ministry spokesman said the public should not be concerned by an analysis published in a major U.S. newspaper that put Thailand near the top of a list of countries at risk of a coup this year.
While the Washington Post report, written by a data-based risk assessment firm, suggests an 11-percent chance for a coup attempt this year in Thailand, the defense official said it doesn’t mean another military takeover is likely – as long as the conditions aren’t “ripe” for one.
“If you look at it in reverse, there’s 89-percent chance of a coup not taking place,” Maj. Gen. Kongcheep Tantravanich said by telephone. “So what’s there to be alarmed about?”
Thailand has seen a dozen successful coups. The Washington Post analysis, written by a data scientist and head of a global risk-assessment consultant, listed the 30 countries most likely to experience coup attempts based a model that factored in relative stability and histories of coups.
“Thailand has been under martial law, with strong restrictions on civil liberties, since the 2014 coup,” it reads. “The country approved a new constitution in 2016 and scheduled elections for 2017 — but, as some researchers point out, elections often increase the risk of further coup attempts.”
The report also gives the United States under President Donald Trump a 2 percent chance of seeing a coup.
Even with the data available, Khongcheep said it was premature to panic.
“If the figure [of a possible coup] is 60 or 70 percent, then you can get alarmed about it,” he said.
The prediction said Thailand was the second most likely country to see an attempted coup this year after Burundi, where there’s a 12-percent chance of a military takeover. Thailand is followed by the Central African Republic, Chad, Turkey and Syria.
The report’s prediction that such instability could follow new elections would likely push its time-frame into 2018, as the junta’s elections promised for this year are widely expected to be pushed back due to the death of and year-long funerary rites for His Majesty the Late King.
The study was not without flaws, such as an assertion martial law was still in effect.
“Thailand has been under martial law, with strong restrictions on civil liberties, since the 2014 coup,” the report said. “The country approved a new constitution in 2016 and scheduled elections for 2017 – but, as some researchers point out, elections often increase the risk of further coup attempts.”
Asked about the prediction, Maj. Gen. Kongcheep said the likelihood of a coup doesn’t only depend on the military, but on other factors, such as the government at the time and popular opinion.
“A coup needs ripe conditions in the society,” the spokesman said. “If the government works for the interest of the public and the nation, let me ask you, will there be ripe conditions for a coup?”
He said “no one is stupid enough,” in his opinion, to attempt one without those conditions in place.
Thailand’s latest coup took place in May 2014, when generals seized power amid street protests for and against the civilian government at the time. They installed themselves as the National Council for Peace and Order with junta chairman Prayuth Chan-ocha at its head. Prayuth said the intervention was necessary to prevent further bloodshed and bring reform to the country.