The military council which ousted Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra in a 2006 putsch disbanded itself on Tuesday and promised there would be no more coups as a Thaksin-backed coalition prepared to take office.
The Council for National Security (CNS), widely derided for presiding over an inept government, also called on politicians to stay out of military affairs, suggesting it feared vengeful Thaksin supporters in office.
“Everybody in the CNS, especially the army commander-in-chief, insist there will be no more coups,” CNS spokesman Sunsern Kaewkumnerd told reporters.
“In a political transition into a full democracy, which is a sensitive period for all sides, the military should not be involved in politics and politicians should not interfere with the military,” he said.
“Therefore, we need a politically neutral person to be defence minister,” Sunsern said a month after elections in which the openly pro-Thaksin People Power Party fell just short of an overall majority.
That call followed newspaper reports that Samak Sundaravej, the firebrand PPP leader determined to become prime minister, would also become defence minister.
But the military is in a weak position after the elections proved Thaksin's abiding popularity in the countryside where the majority of Thais live, despite CNS attempts to eradicate his influence.
The PPP campaigned on Thaksin's populist platform and told people a vote for the party was a vote for Thaksin. The former prime minister was ousted months after street protests began against him in Bangkok and faces corruption charges when he returns from exile.
Political analysts saw the results of the December 23 election as a vote against the coup and criticism of the military is becoming ever more trenchant.
“The generals have proved unfit in their handling of post-coup Thailand,” Chulalongkorn University political scientist Thitinan Pongsudhirak wrote in Tuesday's Bangkok Post.
“Policy directions have been murky, leadership incompetent, overall administration inept. The generals have made themselves obsolete by botching their latest putsch,” he said.
The generals accused Thaksin of presiding over rampant corruption and of disrespect toward revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej — charges he denies — but an anti-graft panel they appointed has come up with only one case against him.