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Whether the coup will, in fact, end Thaksin's tenure isn't yet clear. Nor is it certain whether democracy will follow the military maneuver. In the 1970s and 1980s, Thailand experienced nearly a dozen coups, which hardly helped nurture democracy. "The success of this coup will hinge on whether the military can quickly name a new caretaker leader and show that they are committed to democratic governance," says Panitan.
For now, the coup plotters must first make sure that Thaksin loyalists within the military don't stage a counter-coup. "The threat of violence is still very real," warns Panitan. Such military intrigue, though, was lost on the sunburned tourists who were driving by Government House in the back of tuk-tuks, as the local automated trishaws are called. "What's going on?" asked one English-speaking passerby with large tattoos on his shoulders, as he glanced at four soldiers lounging on a tank. "Is it a party?" Who knows how long the festive mood on Bangkok streets will last.
with reporting by Robert Horn/Bangkok