A Military Coup and Government Failure
Three years of civilian government ended with a military coup on Oct.
6, 1976. Political parties, banned after the coup, gained limited freedom
in 1980. The same year, the national assembly elected Gen. Prem
Tinsulanonda as prime minister. Prem continued as prime minister following
the 1983 and 1986 elections.
Fleeing from Laos, Vietnam, and the murderous regime of Cambodia's Pol
Pot, refugees flooded into Thailand in 1978 and 1979. Despite efforts by
the United States and other Western countries to resettle them, a total of
130,000 Laotians and Vietnamese were living in camps along the Cambodian
border in mid-1980.
On April 3, 1981, a military coup against the Prem government failed.
Another coup attempt on Sept. 9, 1985, was crushed by loyal troops after
ten hours of fighting in Bangkok. In Feb. 1991, yet another coup yielded
another junta, which declared a state of emergency and abolished the
constitution. A scandal over a land-reform program caused the fall of the
government in May 1995. A succession of governments followed.