THE Thai military is highly unlikely ever to attempt another coup, although it will struggle fiercely to preserve its political clout, a military observer said. The military had learned from the 1991 overthrow of an elected government that direct intervention was no longer feasible, said Suchit Bunbongkorn, professor of political science at Chulalongkorn University. The corrupt image of Prime Minister Banharn Silpa-archa's three-month-old Government has prompted speculation the traditional military disdain for politicians may encourage old habits. Thailand has had 17 coups since 1932. 'Before 1991 there hadn't been a successful coup since 1978 - so the military didn't realise how unpopular such action would be. The 1992 pro-democracy protests made it quite clear that coups aren't acceptable any more,' Professor Suchit said. He claimed there was a 'sense of shame' over the coup and the subsequent brutal but unsuccessful suppression of protests. The tight-knit clique of officers who overthrew Chatichai Choonhavan's notoriously corrupt 'buffet Cabinet' was led by ambitious Class Five graduates (1958) from Chulachomklao military academy. The professor said the Army no longer contained a similarly powerful and cohesive gang of officers. The military does retain a deep interest in political affairs, but it has learned to cultivate more subtle methods of influence. Professor Suchit believed the armed forces would continue to resist attempts to reduce their power in three areas: influence on foreign policy towards border countries Cambodia, Burma and Laos; control over promotions; and freedom to buy weapons. The recent decision by Defence Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh to replace Army chief General Wimon Wongwanich, who had reached retirement age, with an ally rather than the incumbent's own choice hardly showed the military was under civilian control. Mr Chavalit is a former army chief - he has recently taken to wearing his old uniform again - who still has friends in the military. The move would have been much more fiercely resented had it been pushed by a civilian, Professor Suchit said. 'The reshuffle did show Class Five is definitely finished as a political force,' he said. Mr Chavalit has also appointed an army ally to oversee arms purchases, ensuring continued leverage over the Army.