His junta, and now government, proceeded to quell protests and silence the political opposition by exploiting existing polarization within the public, notably between the monarchists and supporters of populist former prime ministers, and by re-engineering the political system — the Constitution, Parliament, the courts — to further entrench the military’s power.
In Myanmar, the February coup ostensibly was carried out in response to electoral fraud during the general elections in November that brought a resounding victory for the ruling National League for Democracy of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. Gen. Min Aung Hlaing has pledged to practice a “genuine discipline-flourishing multiparty democratic system,” while promising to continue existing economic and foreign policies. This coup was “different” from others, he said.
His coup nonetheless has been violent and deadly, whereas the one in Thailand in 2014 essentially was bloodless. Otherwise, the two are remarkable for their similarities in means and ends. And that is no coincidence.
Notice the legalism, for example, as a claim to legitimacy. Myanmar’s false process of democratization in 2011 arguably served as an archetype for Thailand’s election in 2019.
Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi’s N.L.D. was elected, resoundingly, in Myanmar in 2015. But even then she could not become president, not under the terms of the 2008 Constitution, which had been drafted by the military. The Constitution, which is still in force, also reserves 25 percent of seats in Parliament for army delegates, places key ministries in the hands of the military and grants the generals vast emergency powers — which they invoked to justify their recent takeover.
Similarly, Thailand’s latest Constitution was drafted in 2016 by a military-appointed committee, with an aim not only to prevent popular civilian politicians from re-entering the political scene, but also to institutionalize the military’s influence. Among other things, it set aside seats in the Senate for the army.
Then there are the personal ties.
Back in 2012, when Gen. Min Aung Hlaing already was the commander of Myanmar’s armed forces, he asked Prem Tinsulanonda, a former Thai prime minister and former Thai Army chief (and a friend of Min Aung Hlaing’s father), to adopt him. Mr. Prem, a close adviser of the Thai king, was 92 years old and had no children of his own. He agreed.