Thailand has endured 18 coups since the 1930s; its military has dominated much of the post-war period. Its first fully democratic constitution, introduced in 1997, was still freshly inked when an army junta seized control of the government and deposed the prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, in September 2006. Hated by urban Thais but loved by the rural poor, the democratically elected Mr Shinawatra had been accused of corruption and abuse of power. His departure was overdue, but in sacking him themselves the generals struck a deep blow at a fragile political system.
In October 2006 the junta installed a “civilian” leader for the interim regime and in May 2007 they had Mr Shinawatra’s party disbanded. Free elections are promised for late 2007, but there are reasons for doubt. Meanwhile, the junta is making a hash of the country’s economic policy and its response to a vicious insurgency in the south.
(See also Profile : Thaksin Shinawatra)