Putsch Shy in Thailand

BANGKOK – In the land of smiles, even military takeovers can turn jubilant.

During the most recent coup in 2006, bystanders cheered as soldiers marched past with marigold ribbons fastened to their assault rifles.

In Thailand, such gleeful tolerance for armed interference in the otherwise democratic government is far from unusual.

Coups d’état here are nearly as common as presidential elections in the U.S. The military averages one every four or five years. It has launched 18 coups since 1932, when army officers coerced the royal family to accept a democracy with the monarch as head of state.

More than a few of the 18 turned violent. Military infighting in 1951 led to the prime minister’s abduction on a naval vessel, which was bombed by the nation’s own air force. A student uprising in 1976 sparked an army-led campus massacre, killing hundreds, and a subsequent military takeover. And in the aftermath of a 1991 coup, soldiers shot protesters dead in broad daylight.

On the other hand, many coups have been described as silken, silent or bloodless....

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