restricted access 7. Applying the Theory to Contemporary Cases of Military Rule: Thailand and Egypt
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158 7  •   Applying the Theory to Contemporary Cases of Military Rule Thailand and Egypt Although military interventions seem like something from the distant past, 15 successful cases of putsches were reported between 2000 and 2014 worldwide . When 20 attempted interventions, 20 plots thwarted by government officials, and 13 allegations are added to this number, it is clear that, in many nations, especially in Africa and Asia, military interventions are not obsolete .1 In this chapter, I demonstrate that the theory detailed in chapter 2 and attained from the analysis of Greece and Turkey from the interwar period until the military lost its political power can also be used to illuminate these contemporary cases. Focusing on the military interventions in Thailand and Egypt, I show how the book’s theoretical framework of costs of toleration and suppression can be employed to explain regime outcomes occurring in seemingly unrelated geopolitical settings and eras.2 The coups in Thailand in 2006 and in Egypt in 2011 were carried out by the military to oust political elites. The main aim of these coups was to establish unconsolidated democracies with unthreatening elites, who would acquiesce in the military’s tutelary powers and reserve domains. In this goal, they resembled the interwar coups in Greece and the 1960, 1971, and 1997 interventions in Turkey. Yet, in both Egypt and Thailand, once elections returned, previous elites (Thailand) or newly empowered ones (Egypt) ascended, coupled with anti-­ military protests organized in alliance with the elites or independent of them. As the countries slid into chaos, the militaries intervened again, this time both to remove the elites from power and to repress dissident lower-­ class movements. Although a full-­ blown authoritarian regime, similar to the 1936 and 1967 regimes in Greece, was established in Egypt, the outcome of the Thai coup is still uncertain . As of December 2015, the intervention resembled an authoritarian regime more than a short-­lived coup. The Thai military leaders are promis- Applying the Theory to Contemporary Cases of Military Rule  •  159 ing elections, but the draft constitution suggests the continuation of repression . The best-­case scenario for Thailand is that the intervention would be similar to the 1980 hybrid putsch in Turkey, that is, a relatively short-­ lived coup, but much longer in duration and more authoritarian in outcome , even when civilians take over after a transition. Thailand and the Intervention of 2006 The short-­ lived coup of 2006 was perhaps not a major surprise to observers, given the historical role the military has played in Thai politics. After Thailand became a constitutional monarchy in 1932, politics were challenged by several military interventions, intra-­ elite conflict, and uprisings, which were sometimes repressed with bloodshed. Until the early 1990s, Thailand witnessed both short-­ lived and authoritarian military interventions, as well as failed coup attempts, reaching a total of 17.3 The coup in 1991 and the military ’s loss of prestige in the aftermath of the Black May repression of the 1992 uprising opened up a new era, projecting an optimistic outlook that the military had lost some of its political powers and would not intervene again.4 The 1997 constitution was the most democratic the country has ever seen, although the regime was unconsolidated, most notably because it gave the monarchy and King Bhumibol Adulyadej tutelary powers.5 Hopes that democracy might be stabilized in Thailand were dashed, however, in the early 2000s, with the election of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and his Thais Love Thais (TLT) party. When in power between 2001 and 2006, Thaksin intimidated old elite groups that were organized around the monarchy and consisted of political, economic, and military factions. First, the TLT government meddled with military promotions in order to guarantee the compliance of the armed forces. Thaksin, who had attended the military preparatory academy as a young student and served as a police officer, promoted his friends to the top ranks, hoping that this strategy would bring loyalty. One of the most critical reasons for the 2006 coup was the politicization of the promotions, which led to divisions among officers (for a summary of the reasons for the 2006 coup, see table 7.1).6 However, that was not the only challenge that the TLT government posed to military interests. Thaksin continued a trend, started in 1992, of reducing the military’s political influence. The most critical aspect of this loss of relative power was the 2 percent decrease in military spending in the overall government budget.7...


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