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Thailand: Amid coup buzz, Thai army chief heads to Pentagon

The US, unwittingly, is pulled into Thailand's coup talk drama.

“Other than a few perfunctory statements about ‘preserving’ or ‘swiftly re-establishing’ democracy,” Ferrara said, “the U.S. has never imposed any kind of consequence on conservative coups launched in Thailand since the 1950s.”

Attempting to put the Thai army chief on the wrong side of American-style principles, he said, is actually part of a larger red shirt campaign to fracture the military.

In advance of a potential coup, Thailand’s opposition is aggressively courting the army’s rank-and-file. Red shirt leaders have asked soldiers to respond to coup orders by putting down their rifles, donning red scarves and joining protesters in the streets.

Several mid-tier generals and their subordinates are openly contemptuous of army leaders who mounted the coup three years ago.

The most intense rhetoric has come from Maj. Gen. Khattiya Sawasdipol, a self-described “warrior” who mocks top brass generals as golfers and maintains his own personal militia. He was recently charged with possessing “war weapons” and linked to a late-night M-79 grenade explosion near Anupong’s quarters at army headquarters. (Khattiya has denied involvement.)

The red shirts, Ferrara said, are nurturing this internal military schism “in hopes of either involving parts of the military in their revolutionary struggle or at least undermining the military’s ability to repress it.”

In the lead up to Anupong’s departure, his immediate subordinates have staged pro-Anupong pep rallies to build morale and remind politically subversive soldiers to behave during their leader’s trip to Washington.

Anupong himself has sworn that no coup will take place during his U.S. trip. This promise may be tested on Feb. 26, when judges decide whether to seize $2.3 billion of Thaksin’s assets and red shirts ratchet up the “final battle” by encircling the court house and staging raucous street protests.