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Few gains in Thai protesters' 'final war'

The antigovernment group swarmed the airport where the prime minister was supposed to arrive Wednesday.

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Mr. Thitinan and other analysts say the alliance's "final war" is meant to provoke a military coup and force the current government out. The country has a history of coups – 18 since World War II, the latest being Thaksin's ouster in 2006.

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Though coup rumors have electrified Bangkok in recent months, prospects of another one appear dim. The Royal Thai Armed Forces leadership has taken a hands-off approach during the protests. Thailand's Army chief, Gen. Anupong Paochinda, has stated that his soldiers cannot heal Thailand's political wounds. The coup route, he said, is "a closed door."

Many analysts believe that only out-and-out anarchy would convince the military to intervene. But if the alliance hoped for a fight this week – it barricaded streets, mocked riot cops, and disrupted parliament – police and soldiers disappointed them by keeping their distance.

Meanwhile, the PAD's supporters appears more ragged and spare. Only about 2,000 people occupy the prime minister's compounds on weekdays – a mix of paid guards, vendors hawking T-shirts, and retirement-age Thais.

Bleaker still is the financial picture of its propaganda network, Manager Media Group. After ducking a civil court hearing with creditors this month, its assets may be eligible for seizure.

The firm has more than $133 million in debt – a fortune in Thai business terms. Its "news" channel, which runs nonstop footage of protests, posts frequent banner ads requesting donations.

The PAD has protesters to feed, satellite trucks to maintain, technicians, bodyguards, and others to pay. According to Sondhi, occupying the compound costs roughly 1 million Thai baht ($28,400) a day. Adding Don Muang's occupation to its balance sheet will further sap its resources.

The thought of another coup is not particularly welcome to the PAD's rank and file. "It's a hard question. I don't really want a coup," said Rattana Somleak late Monday night. The dessert salesman, prepared for a long occupation at Don Muang, had just finished brushing his teeth over an airport railing.

"The government has all the power and, yes, they got it from elections. That's the correct way. But they also got power from buying votes, buying the media." Could he stomach another coup? Mr. Somleak's brow tightens. "Maybe. I just don't know."

Away from the megaphone, Soontorn, the PAD coordinator, acknowledges that the violent protests must end soon. We can't keep going on with these little wins and little losses, back and forth, between us and the government."

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