Coups: The good, the bad & the ugly

A look at how coups have impacted nations and people since the end of World War II.

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

A coup worth mentioning happened in Mali in 2012 where many people died. In this image, Malian soldiers and security forces gather at the state broadcaster after announcing a coup d'etat in the capital Bamako.

Updated Jul 26, 2016

Democracy and its ideology is being adopted in countries as a system which benefits both people and  the economy.

In a post-World War II world, many countries have experienced politcial instability due to the reshaping of poltical orders brought about by the retreat of colonialsm. 

Often this instabilty actualised itself as popular uprsings or coups. 

Transition is a difficult path and some countries had to shed blood for their progeny to live in societies that are free.

Other countries were fortunate enough to break from the shackles of the past and build a national future with less hardships.

Below, we take a look at the good, the bad and the ugly of coups from the end of World War II until today.

1) The Most Violent Coup - Indonesia

In this October, 1965 file photo, members of the Youth Wing of the Indonesian Communist Party are guarded by soldiers as they are taken by open truck to prison in Jakarta. Image: AP (Archive)

Year: 1965

Reason: In October 1965, six top army generals were killed under mysterious circumstances by low-ranking soldiers.

The killings were blamed on communists. Events which unfolded in coming weeks propelled little-known General Suharto to power.

What followed was a brutal purge of left-wing activists.

During General Suharto's strong control over Indonesia, history of the bloody coup was tainted, but research carried out over the past few years suggests that hundreds of thousands were killed over a few months.

Length of Coup: A few weeks to take over the country, then came the iron-fist dictatorship rule from 1965 to 1998.

Casualties: Between 500,000 to a million during the first year of dictatorship rule.

Situation Today: One of the most populace Muslim countries prospered under Suharto as he tightened his grip and started much needed economic reforms.

But mired in corruption scandals, his dictatorial regime ended in 1998 after mass protests forced him out.

Indonesia held its first openly contested democratic elections in 1998 and has been a democracy ever since. Indonesia went on to become the 16th largest economy in terms of GDP.

2) The Most Number of Successful Coups - Thailand

Thai soldiers take their position along roads blocked around the Victory Monument where anti-coup protesters were gathering on previous days in Bangkok May 30, 2014. Image: Reuters.

Years: Since 1945, Thailand went through 10 coups - 1947, 1951, 1957, 1958, 1971, 1976, 1977, 1991, 2006 and 2014.

Reason: The first coup after World War II was led by Lieutenant-General Phin Chunhawan and Colonel Kat Katsongkhram.

Since then, 10 military coups have taken place.

The latest coup of 2014 led by army chief Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha was carried out in order “to restore order and enact political reforms.”

Length of Coup: The latest coup of 2014 is still been ongoing due to considerable uncertainty which persists over the junta’s promised timetable.

Casualties: At least 28 people were killed and 700 injured in the latest coup.

Situation Today: The junta gave a timeline which shows a general election in 2017.

3) The Most Number of Failed Coups - Laos

Anti-communist Hmong guerilla groups pictured during the 1960s.

Country: Laos

Years: In total, Laos had thwarted 7 attempts to overthrow the communist monarchy and government - Thrice in 1964, twice in 1965 and once in 1966 and 1973.

Reason: To stave off a staunch communist government who had formed a coalition with the reigning monarchy.

Length of Coup: From the seven attempts, the shortest lasted a few hours in 1964 while the longest lasted for just over a year in 1966.

Casualties: The attempts were mostly bloodless, but the highest death toll was from 1966 in which 23 people were killed.

Situation Today: Landlocked Laos is one of the world's few remaining communist states and one of East Asia's poorest countries.

4) Never Experienced a Coup or an Attempted Coup:

Authors: Abed Ahmed, Tuncay Sahin & Saad Hasan

Graphics: Okan Ozdemir