Be warned, Bangkok: Protesters will gather in the late afternoon on one of the worst traffic days at one of the capital’s most-congested intersections.
At 4pm, the Lat Phrao intersection will be the scene of a “coup rehearsal” called by the United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration last night, which said it is intended to prepare protesters for a possible coup d’etat. They did not elaborate on what that would entail.
“It’s hard to deny that rumors about another coup have been circulating for some time now, though a coup really shouldn’t happen,” the group announced. “History has taught us that we shouldn’t trust that, so we invite you to participate in this rally to rehearse how to deal with a possible coup.”
Thailand has had a total of 13 successful coups since the bloodless 1932 revolt that ended absolute monarchy but preserved the king’s role as symbolic head of the state. Since then, the monarchy rebuilt its stature and the nation has been locked in a cycle of coups installing military dictatorships and uprisings against them.
Rumors that the next coup is just around the corner never go away entirely. Troop movements, armored transports and even the new army commander’s vow not to stage one earlier this month are taken as signs that one is imminent. Most recently, rumors spread Monday and Tuesday after helicopters were spotted flying low over parts of Bangkok and provinces including Chiang Mai and Buriram.
Newly installed army commander and palace loyalist Narongpan Jitkaewthae said Tuesday the air support was accompanying a royal motorcade.
A coup remains possible, according to a Chulalongkorn University political science professor.
Asked about the rumors on Wednesday, Puangthong Pawakapan told Coconuts Bangkok that though the helicopters may not be convincing signs, the government and military appear poised to pull that string at any time.
“The question is why they would stage a coup,” she said. “Because, if they want to arrest the protest leaders, they can do that under the current state of affairs. Unless there are so many they want to arrest that they don’t want to go through the courts anymore.”
She added that the government was likely to crack down further with the lese-majeste law before going further. As of now, 12 protest leaders were charged with it. After eight were reported Monday night, four more summons came Tuesday for more people involved in recent protests: Chanin “Ball” Wongsri, Attapon Buapat, Chukiat Sangwong, and Sombat Thongyoy.