Thailand’s Army chief General Prayuth announces the coup on television on 22 May 2014. Source: SCMP
This morning (May 22nd, 2014, East Coast time), the Thai military staged a coup against the caretaker government that had been in power for the past several weeks, after months of protests and political turmoil directed at the government of Yingluck Shinawatra, who herself had been ordered to resign on 7 May by the judiciary. This follows a military coup in 2006, and more than a dozen successful or attempted coups before then.
We predicted this event last month, in a report commissioned by the CIA-funded Political Instability Task Force (which we can’t quite share yet). In the report, we forecast irregular regime changes, which include coups but also successful protest campaigns and armed rebellions, for 168 countries around the world for the 6-month period from April to September 2014. Thailand was number 4 on our list, shown below alongside our top 20 forecasts. It was number 10 on Jay Ulfelder’s 2014 coup forecasts. So much for our inability to forecast (very rare) political events, and the irrelevance of what we do.
Political conflicts are rarely between two parties. In Iraq, for example, there were as many as 19 different groups engaged, including the Islamic Army in Iraq, Al-Qaeda in Iraq, the Jihadist Leagues, and the Just Punishment Brigades. In Syria, we see a similar picture, including the Free Syrian Army, the Syrian Liberation Front, the Syrian Islamic Front, and Jabhat al-Nusra. Many attempts to understand these kinds of situations group all the rebel forces together against a government. But neither are the rebels unified, and monolithic. Nor, necessarily, is the government. We explore a theory of the interactions among these various kinds of factions in order to better understand what kinds of actions are most likely to be undertaken. To do so, we combine elements of strategic calculation and the analysis of networks. The basic insight is the old saw, often attributed to the 6th century (BCE) Chinese general, Sun Tzu: hold your friends close, and your enemies closer.
The top rug shows the different parties that are in power in Thailand during the observation period, with markers for changes in power. The bottom plot shows conflictual events in Thailand from 1998 on.