On the fourth anniversary of the coup today to oust the Thaksin government, we examine the price the country has paid in financial terms and democratic aspirations since the day the tanks rolled out.
Four years on, the legacy of the coup to oust former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra lingers in a country where political battles rage and the military casts an increasingly prominent shadow over everyday life.
The military’s broadened sphere of influence is clear in monetary terms. Since Sept 19, 2006, the military’s budget has almost doubled – going from 85 billion Baht at that time to 154 billion Baht this year. That number is set to jump to 170 billion next year. There are some 1,100 generals in the army.
The budget for security during the coup was about 1.2 billion baht, and according to some military sources, a further 2 billion baht was distributed to the units involved in the putsch. But the cost of the coup has been more than financial. According to Surachart Bamrungsuk, a political science professor from Chulalongkorn University, all the major players in the current political conflict – the yellow shirts, red shirts, even the Abhisit government – are the by-products of the putsch. The academic, who specialises in security issues, added that the past four years represented a lost opportunity for Thailand to strengthen the growth of democracy.
”If we could turn back time – if there were no coup, and we had let politics proceed according to democratic principles-we would not have ended up like this,” Mr Surachart said.