As the military and civilian government clash, this Southeast Asian country could easily blow up again, and soon.
Red shirt supporters wave flags as thousands of people gather to celebrate Thailand's King Bhumibol Adulyadej's birthday / Reuters
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In a brief but informative piece in the Wall Street Journal recently, veteran correspondent James Hookaway notes that "a delicate détente between Thailand's powerful armed forces and a populist government led by [Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra] ... is looking increasingly fragile."
Saying that the truce is "increasingly fragile" is like saying Homer Simpson enjoys donuts or Barney Frank is a difficult interview: Thailand could easily blow up again, soon. After Yingluck's election in July, the army, together with royalist elites (and presumably the palace) backed off slightly from the strident anti-Thaksin rhetoric and political fighting that had characterized 2009 to the middle of 2011. And in return, Yingluck apparently stayed out of the military's way, allowing it to dominate its appointments and its budgeting. Her government also basically looked the other way as royalists upped the pace of lèse-majesté indictments against people for the slightest charges, including one elderly man who allegedly sent four text messages criticizing the king (though the court could not actually prove he'd sent the messages, or that he even knew how to send text messages at all). The military remained in prime position to stage a coup, if it wanted to, though senior officers insisted that is not in the cards -- a promise made and broken many times before in Thailand's history.