The current “coup by stealth” currently being attempted in Thailand has captured the imagination of the international press. I first blogged about this last week on New Mandala and repeated the line in an interview with ABC’s Radio Australia on January 3. The “coup by stealth” line was taken up by Reuters and that report has been run by several news outlets internationally. Today the Bangkok Post online carries a story in which military figures reject the idea of a “stealth coup:”

Military laughs off stealth coup

The Council for National Security (CNS) on Saturday dismissed as laughable allegations by the People Power party (PPP) that military figures who launched the 2006 coup are behind alleged efforts to overturn the party’s election win through election red cards. Somjet Boonthanom, chief of the CNS secretariat office, yesterday said the allegation was “nonsense and impossible”. He said the CNS had nothing to do with an alleged campaign to overturn the election result and prevent the PPP from rising to power. Foreign analysts have said they fear a new, military-backed “stealth coup” will overturn the results of the Dec 23 election. An AFP analysis on Saturday wrote:

With so much at stake in the election, analysts thought it inevitable that the army and royalist establishment accused of inspiring the coup would pull out all the stops to ensure a pro-Thaksin administration did not emerge. Although there is no indication how many will end up disqualified, or “red-carded”, the high proportion of accepted complaints against the PPP and the EC’s distinct lack of openness has raised eyebrows.

“The idea of 65 suspicious cases against PPP seems odd,” said Kevin Hewison, a Thai politics researcher at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “To change the course of the election you need between 20 and 30 red cards and that seems highly likely at this stage. They may well overturn the result.”

The pro-Thaksin PPP won 233 seats in the Dec 23 polls, exceeding most analyst’s expectations and until last week, seemed set to form a coalition government with a number of smaller parties. However, PPP leader Samak Sundaravej said there is a definite and concerted campaign to prevent the party from leading the next government. Some 65 PPP candidates who won seats in parliament in the Dec 23 election have still not been endorsed by the military-appointed Election Commission.

The Supreme Court is also set to hear charges that PPP is a nominee of the disbanded Thai Rak Thai party, which, if proven, could see the party disbanded and the Dec 23 election results overturned. “The PPP has vented its spleen on the results because it is going to lose its interests,” said Gen Somjet. The EC has already disqualified three winning PPP candidates in Buri Ram under charges of vote-buying, drawing fierce protests from PPP supporters. Over 10,000 demonstrators rallied against the disqualification of the candidates on Friday, but Gen Somjet yesterday insinuated the rally was staged by the PPP. “The turnout of such a large amount of people is unusual,” he said. “Someone probably masterminded the demonstration and they were most likely politicians.”

Just so predictable!