Protests in Thailand may result in violence and a army coup, the analyst says


Thailand could potentially rule again under the military junta – should there be violence between pro-democracy student protesters and "counter-protesters" loyal to the establishment, an analyst told CNBC on Monday.

The month-long protests against democracy have so far been largely peaceful. The list of demands of the demonstrators include the resignation of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha and reforms of the monarchy. Prayuth has ignored the protesters' deadline to step down.

Royalists – commonly known as the "yellow shirts" – have started holding counter-protests in recent weeks. Last Wednesday, a small counter-protest in Bangkok turned violent when some participants attacked student demonstrators in the anti-government camp, Associated Press reported.

"I think there will be mounting tensions that can actually develop into conflict, perhaps violent conflict, and that's very dangerous," Paul Chambers, lecturer and advisor at Naresuan University's ASEAN Community Studies Center, told CNBCs " Squawk Box Asia ". ""

"These peaceful protests are continuing, trying to move on. However, there will be some right-wing counter-protesters who I expect will try to create violence that can lead to injuries, deaths and eventually … even a possible military coup," he said .

Chambers said the military had "perfect rationale" to intervene if clashes between democracy protesters and royalists increased. This could put an end to the current "facade democracy" indirectly dominated by the military and mark the beginning of a new junta, he said.

Such a development will not bring much peace to the country, he added.

Thailand is no stranger to military coups after witnessing one in 2014 carried out by the current prime minister. Last year, the country held its first general election since that coup, in which the military-backed Palang Pracharath party led the coalition government.

Prayuth – since retired from the army – was elected prime minister by a parliament that consisted of many appointed senators from the Thai military and the Thai police.

The economic outlook for the Southeast Asian country has deteriorated significantly this year although the country's coronavirus outbreak is now largely under control. The International Monetary Fund predicted that the Thai economy could contract 7.1% this year.


Katherine Clark