Back to the Land of Smiles?

Thailand has a long history of coups, and many people have felt that it was in the cards for quite some time.

Right now, I am doing my regular rotation in Baghdad, and I had hoped a coup wouldn't happen before I returned to Bangkok in October, just in time for the general election planned for that month. But when I arrived here a few weeks ago, my cameraman and friend, Tom, reminded me that I said a coup could happen in Thailand very soon — Current Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra is a character who has divided the country.

Concerns about Shinawatra's autocratic way of working have upset everybody from rival politicians to the revered king of Thailand, Bhumibol Adulyadej. In the past, it has been almost a spectator sport to watch the king's address to the country's politicians each year, in which he would always castigate the Prime Minister.

Regardless, Shinawatra still had the support of the majority of the people. The poor in the North continue to support him because of his government's policies. But the middle class in Bangkok and in other cities, has increasingly turned against him because of allegations of corruption — and Shinawatra has raised concerns for many years about people wanting to kill him or remove him.

Many years ago, as I boarded a Thailand Airways flight to the northern city of Chiang Mai, I remember seeing the remains of a Thai Airways plane near me. It had caught fire only hours before Shinawatra was to board it, and more recently, there was an alleged plan to assassinate him.

An army lieutenant was arrested in a car near the prime minister's family home. It was full of bomb-making equipment, but had not yet been wired up to explode... but Thailand is so polarized that some believed Shinawatra staged it himself to get support in the country.

The only force that can unite this country is the king — Bhumibol Adulyadej. In 1992, during the last coup, it was Adulyadej who persuaded the army to go back to the barracks, and it was then that democracy was launched in the country once known as the "Land of Smiles."

David Piper is a FOX News Channel Asia reporter.