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A man wearing a Thailand Vote shirt uses a smartphone at the office of the Election Commission in Bangkok on Feb. 8, 2019
On Monday, the ruling government called the coup rumor “fake news” in the wake of the term #ThaiCoup trending on Twitter in the country, according to news wires Deutsche Presse-Agentur and Agence France-Presse. Authorities said the military vehicles were being moved for an annual multinational military exercise that begins on Tuesday, multiple reports said.
It’s not entirely clear why the military would have needed to forcibly take control. In 2014, the army seized power from a pro-Thaksin government with Prayuth, now a retired general, leading that movement. And, in its five years of rule, the military leadership has delayed elections several times. The March 24 vote is seen as a test of the country’s ability to return to democracy.
One reason for the coup rumors could be infighting between factions of the armed forces, Chambers suggested: “There has been a growing divide in the military over the junta government.”
Another cause for the show of force could be anticipation of political unrest, according to Andrew MacGregor Marshall, lecturer at Edinburgh Napier University and a leading expert on Thai politics.
The king, who traditionally commands the allegiance of the military, “may feel that recent events have thrown the election process into chaos, and he does not want political disarray to overshadow his coronation in early May,” Marshall said on Twitter.
There’s also a risk of Princess Ubolratana’s Thai Raksa Party getting kicked out of the electoral race, which could raise tensions. On Sunday, Srisuwan Janya, secretary-general of Thailand’s Association for the Protection of the Constitution, told Reuters that he would file a petition to disqualify the group.
“The royal announcement made it clear that the party violated electoral law,” the activist told the news agency, referring to the king’s Friday statement, which said her action amounted to a violation of the constitution.