Thailand is again facing street demonstrations against steps by the government to amend the constitution. Since protests against Bangkok's plans began on May 25 the stock market has fallen by 6 percent and the baht has fallen against the dollar amid fears of a slowdown in the economy. Against this background fears of a military coup have resurfaced although the military appears content to stay on the sidelines for the time being.
Thailand's Prime Minister Samak Sundarvej is under pressure
Political protests have again returned to the streets of Bangkok less than six months after the government of Prime Minister Samak Sundarvej came to power.
In 2006 street protests against former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, accused by the middle class and military elements of corruption and abuse of power, led to a coup.
But in fresh elections in December 2007, the People’s Power Party, backed by Thaksin supporters, returned to power.
Controversial constitution amendments
The latest protests come as the Samak government attempts to amend two key sections of the 2007 constitution. The changes would lead to the shutting down of corruption investigations against Thaksin and lift a five year political ban on Thaksin and more than 100 executive members of his former party.
Last week political tensions eased after a minister -- a former spokesman to Thaksin -- resigned over public comments considered insulting to the Thai Royal House. On the other hand, moves to withdraw the motion for the amendments in parliament also cooled the political temperature. After this, the government hoped the protests might end.
But Khun Thongsap, 38, says the rallies will continue. Protestors say they still expect a fresh bill to be submitted -- "next week", believes Thongsap.
Another protestor, Khun Sip, says the initial amendments were just to assist the government, rather than the nation. "They want to change the constitution for themselves, not for the people."
Coup rumours denied
Rumours swirled last week of possible military intervention. But senior Thai military commanders have since given assurances there are no plans for a coup at present.
Sompop Manarangsan, a director of the Institute of Asian Studies at Chulalongkorn University believes the military will remain on the sidelines for the moment and doubts there will be a coup in the near future.
"I think the military will try to be neutral towards this increasing conflict," he says. But problems may still arise later in the year, according to analysts. Sompop does expect tensions to again rise in the lead up to a reshuffle of key military posts, and as corruption cases against Thaksin proceed to the courts.