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Vol 106 / Issue 29

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focus: Thailand By Simon Montlake / Staf writer and Flora Bagenal / Correspondent Boston; and Bangkok,thailand I n a lush downtown park, where antigov- ernment protesters had camped out for months, the city's joggers are back, pound- ing the paved paths. Glass-and-steel tow- ers loom overhead, as does an elevated train line. As they pass, the joggers wave at the older men and women who gather daily to play chess. At a nearby intersection, the sidewalks groan with food vendors serving spicy sausages to lunchtime office workers and tourists. Sol- diers are nowhere to be seen. The only sign that Thailand is under military rule is a slogan in red paint daubed on a wall: "Against the Coup." For the retirees in the park, it's an old story. Since 1932, the end of absolute monarchy in Thailand, formerly Siam, the country has seen 12 successful military coups, most recently in 2006. Each time, a group of officers seize power, tear up the Constitution, and start over. Most coups are bloodless and telegraphed in ad- vance, allowing ousted leaders to flee into exile or sue for peace. Only the two-step approach of Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha, the current putsch leader, deviated from this script. After months of political in- stability, he declared martial law May 20 and then summoned rival political factions for talks. Two days later, amid deadlock at the negotiat- ing table, he declared himself leader of a new junta, the National Council for Peace and Order. After receiving royal endorsement, Prayuth promised political reforms but set no timetable for holding elections and handing over power. His junta has detained scores of politicians and activists from all sides, while censoring local media and blocking some foreign broadcasts. Plus ├ža change. But for all its familiarity, this coup represents a much sharper turn for Thai - land than previous putsches that replaced one military clique with another, barely rippling the surface of daily life. "The explanations for many coups in Thailand have centered on factional- A coup that actually matters The Thai military steps into a crisis with layers of intrigue. Flower power: A military supporter gave a rose to a soldier in Bangkok, Thailand, May 27. The military coup was the second in eight years, overthrowing a fragile democracy. sakchai lalit/aP Thailand has experienced 12 military coups since 1932, most barely rippling the surface of daily life. But this one represents something new. Political and economic power is shifting toward rural Thais, who are moving into the middle class. The traditional middle class and elites in the capital, Bangkok, are resisting. WHY IT MATTERS V VNEXT PAGE 18 The ChrisTian sCienCe MoniTor Weekly | June 9, 2014

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