Thursday, March 6, 2014


Thailand’s current political conflict there is a repeat of 2010, 2008, 2006, 1993, 1991, 1973, 1970 . . . all the way back to 1932 . . . S.L.

One Thing to Rule them All?

The Democracy Monument in Bangkok, Thailand

The Democracy Monument was commissioned to honor the coup d-etat of 1932, also known as the Siamese Revolution, when Thailand became a constitutional monarchy. There have been fifteen military coups d-etat since 1932, and three unsuccessful coup attempts. The Democracy Monument is usually center stage for political demonstrations and street protests in Bangkok.

I was in a lot of those coups and revolutions in Thailand.

In 1970 I was in 6th grade at the International School Bangkok.

1970 was a bloodless coup . . .

They rolled the tanks out and the King blessed the coup, which is the way they do it in Thailand. Without the Royal Blessing, any coup will fail. With the King's Blessing, Thailand became a military dictatorship under the Triumvirate of Thanom Kittikachorn, his nephew Narong, and Narong's father-in-law General Praphat.

The Three Tyrants

In 1973 the students rose up and things got bloody, downtown in the political part of town. The military flew helicopter gunships & fired into the crowds.

This was a bad coup.

The King withdrew his Blessing from the Kittikachorn/Praphat team, they left the country and for awhile Thailand enjoyed democracy, with heavy leftist influence. Three years of radical academic-inspired leftist policies followed and Thailand became very dangerous. Several bomb and grenade attacks against students protesting the government and US policies.

One attack originated from the roof of Siam Center (above).

There were bus bombings and the US embassy was laid siege to . . . During this time Saigon & Phnom Penh fell and hordes of refugees showed up telling horrific stories of the communist bloodbaths in Vietnam and Cambodia.

I was in high school at this time, dating girls, going out to the movies and nightclubs in the wildest city in the world.

We all felt like we were living in a movie.

Then in 1978 the right wingers laid seige to Thammasat University - political HQ of the student radicals running the country - and in the ensuing battle - extremely bloody - they revealed TU to be a hive of communist activity.

After they sorted that out there followed a decade-plus of relative stability, until the coups of the early 90s.

By that time I was back in the Kingdom, this time as a military advisor. The guys we were training became a part of the coup activities and so we had to distance ourselves from them. We shut down operations, parked our kit at JUSMAG, went downtown & partied because the airport was shut down and nobody's flying.

It was beyond strange to be there in the city where I'd been an Australian ex-patriate kid, now as an American military advisor . . . hanging out in a hotel room with the local talent . . . watching the columns of smoke rising over the political part of this Southeast Asian city which just so happened to be my home town . . .

It was SURREAL . . .



  1. Nicely done Sean...I remember so much of what you wrote's so very real to this day.

  2. I was there in the 70's. We were advised to wear civilian clothes instead of uniforms. Along the road leading to the mountain where our site was located, there were several "yankee go home" and "CIA go home" signs posted.

  3. Hey Sean;

    I enjoyed the post immensely, I used to get the SOF rag in the mid 80's just before I joined the service and during my time in the service. I did notice that Thailand did feature prominently in their articles. I believe because it was on the front lines against communism after Laos and Cambodia fell along with South Vietnam.
    The places you showed, are they still there as far as the school and other places? Have you been back in recent times?

  4. Another curious note....

  5. I went to ISB in 1973 and I vividly recall all of what Sean is talking about from that first 1973 coup. My brother and I took buses to the location of the burning monuments and building that day not having any idea of what had happened.