A clique known as the Young Turks, middle-ranking army officers who all graduated from Chulachomklao Military Academy in 1960 and were opposed to General Arthit, also voiced opposition to the extension. The Young Turks were primarily led by Colonel's Manoon Roopkachorn, his brother Manas, and Chamlong Srimaung (Bottom picture) .
While Prem could point to significant success in accelerating the collapse of the CPT insurgency, noting the literally thousands of guerillas emerging from the jungles and surrendering to the government, the economy itself was in recession.
This led to rumblings of discontent from within the ruling coalition, with some political leaders upset they were not benefitting in the time-honoured way for supporting Prem. The usual corruption scandals which are the bane of almost every Thai government also weakened Prem's hold on power.
The final straw for many was when it was announced, early in 1981, that Prem would seek yet a further extension as army commander. A number of ministers resigned and Kukrit Pramoj -who had hoped to succeed Kriangsak as prime minister ahead of Prem- pulled his party out of the ruling coalition in protest.
Prem reacted by forming a new coalition and appointing Sudsai Hasdin and a senior general to the cabinet. These actions provoked fears of a return to the extreme right in Thai politics.
The actual sequence of events which led to the attempted coup are still debated among some Thai history scholars.
It is believed the coup itself was not meant to remove Prem, but aimed at scything away the many allegedly corrupt and venal military men who were supporting him in the parliament. Included among these was the deputy prime minister General Pramarn Adireksarn.
The Young Turks were also angry at the appointment of corrupt, but politically adept, officers into major military positions ahead of more senior and deserving men.
Two of the coup leaders, General Sant Chitpatima and Colonel Manoon Roopkachorn, approached Prem on 31 March and asked him to prorogue parliament, suspend the constitution, and take control of the government.
There are claims Prem agreed, and the coup leaders marshaled their forces in Bangkok to aid in the takeover.
It is then alleged Prem was pressured into reneging on the idea. Despite this, the Young Turks, mostly veterans of the armed conflicts in Laos and Vietnam who considered themselves true soldiers, determined to go ahead with the coup.