Last May, the generals who grabbed power in Bangkok pulled off a PR coup as well: Their takeover cheered investors. While little good had come from 11 previous coups since the 1930s, this one seemed different. Junta-leader-turned-prime minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha proclaimed Thailand open for business and surrounded himself with experienced technocrats, promising to spur growth, attack corruption and "return happiness to the people."
Stocks soared, consumer confidence jumped and executives hailed the return of political stability. Thailand had seen little of the latter since 2006, when soldiers overthrew allegedly corrupt billionaire Thaksin Shinawatra. For much of the 2,802 days between Thaksin's ouster and Prayuth's coup, Thailand's government was crippled by gridlock and under constant siege from street protests. Hence Prayuth's appeal: Here, finally, was the competent, take-charge leader Thailand needed to restore economic growth.