Already one person has suggested to me that Thailand is heading toward a military dictatorship. I want to make a few quick comments about the (un)likeliness of such a scenario before following up with a more comprehensive post in the next day or two. Below I summarize statistics for how different political science datasets classify regime types following coups. This begins from the year of the coup (year=0) and ranges to five years after the coup (year=5). I also break this down into the Cold War (left) and Post-Cold War (right) periods.
Data for successful coups comes from my work with Clayton Thyne. The figure compares states classified as democracies by Cheibub, Gandhi, and Vreeland to military regimes as classified by Banks.
First, military regimes are far less common than people think. This is probably even true for the Cold War, when within a year following the coup less than 30% of regimes could be described as military. This also quickly drops over time. A similar decline is seen following the Cold War, when only around 6% of states are military regimes once they are 3+ years removed from the coup. Even the numbers in this figure are overstated, as this is being held up by Myanmar's military regime, whose coup actually occurred shortly before the close of the Cold War. The data indicate no state that experienced a successful coup since 1991 could be described as a military regime 5 years later. Some might point to Pervez Musharraf, but Pakistan's classification as a military regime following its 1999 coup changed in 2002, presumably because of the general elections. In other words, Musharraf started dressing less like this and more like this.
Second, the opposite trend can be seen when we look at democratization. Even the Cold War saw countries more likely to be democracies than military regimes after 5 years. This trend has greatly strengthened since the collapse of the Soviet Union, as countries are about 5x more likely to be a democracy than a military regime when 3+ years removed from a coup. An excellent paper by Nikolay Marinov and Hein Goemans discusses some of the reasons for this trend. Clay and I also take a shot at explaining this dynamic here.
Historically oriented people will likely be skeptical when coup leaders announce their "temporary" plans, but the reality is that armies do not hold power for long periods of time. We will in fact see the military step down and will see Thailand's (albeit flawed) democracy restored. I'll leave detailed comments to people whose knowledge on Thailand is significantly beyond Alan's speech at Stu's wedding in The Hangover 2, but I will say that away from military rule is far less challenging than getting politicians, parties, and their supporters to buy into the rules of the game, whatever those rules end up being.