Thai junta goes from martial law to absolute power

Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha talks to reporters on the anniversary of the military coup at Government house in Bangkok, Thailand. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Thitinan Pongsudhirak, Chulalongkorn University

Thailand’s military-led government has invoked Article 44 of the interim constitution to replace martial law. The controversial article vests complete power and authority with Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-ocha in his capacity as head of the National Council for Peace and Order — Thailand’s junta that has governed through martial law for over 10 months so far. The replacement of martial law with Prayut’s absolute authority yields several immediate implications. Read more…

Thailand’s delicate dance with the major powers

Visiting Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev (L) stresses a point with Thailand's Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha (R) looking on during their joint news conference at the Government House in Bangkok, Thailand, 08 April 2015. (Photo: APP).

Author: Thitinan Pongsudhirak, Chulalongkorn University

Thailand now stands on a tightrope among the major powers. Recently, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev made a high-profile visit to Bangkok, hosted by the coup-appointed government of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha. Medvedev’s visit suggests that Thailand is now strategically courting authoritarian major powers, namely Russia and China, in defiance of Western criticism of Bangkok’s coup and military regime.

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China’s aspiring global leadership

US president Barack Obama and Chinese president Xi Jinping look at each other during a press conference at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing during APEC, 12 November 2014. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Thitinan Pongsudhirak, Chulalongkorn University

This geopolitical summit season has consolidated ongoing trends in international affairs. A still-rising China with global leadership aspirations, a resurgent Russia bent on restoring its superpower status, and sclerosis and dysfunction in Western countries is likely to dominate international politics for at least the next 20 years. In fact, we might only be at the beginning in this long time span where seismic global power shifts are taking place. Read more…

The two faces of Thai authoritarianism

A Thai soldier is silhouetted against the sky as he guards GOvernment House during the first cabinet meeting of the military junta chief and newly-appointed Prime Minister General Prayuth Chan-ocha. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Thitinan Pongsudhirak, Chulalongkorn University

Thai politics has completed a dramatic turn from electoral authoritarianism under deposed premier Thaksin Shinawatra in 2001–2006 to a virtual military government under General Prayuth Chan-ocha. These two sides of the authoritarian coin, electoral and military, represent Thailand’s painful learning curve. The most daunting challenge for the country is not to choose one or the other but to create a hybrid that combines electoral sources of legitimacy for democratic rule and some measure of moral authority and integrity often lacked by elected officials. Read more…

Jokowi saves Indonesia’s democracy (and maybe Southeast Asia’s too)

Indonesian presidential candidate Joko Widodo and his wife Iriana show their ballots before giving their vote during the presidential election. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Thitinan Pongsudhirak, Chulalongkorn University

Many years from now, the electoral victory of Indonesia’s president-elect Joko Widodo (Jokowi) may be seen as pivotal to the fate of democracy and regionalism in Southeast Asia. A win by Jokowi’s opponent Prabowo Subianto would have been a retrograde step for Indonesia, promising shades of authoritarianism even with a popular mandate. Jokowi’s victory, on the other hand, bodes well not just for Indonesia’s future but also for the region’s democratic prospects and ASEAN’s forward momentum. Read more…

Elections the worst outcome in Thailand, except for all the others

Thai anti-government protesters face off with Airforce military as they storm a meeting venue between the government and Election Commission in Bangkok on 15 May 2014. Thailand's Election Commission called for the postponement of key parliamentary polls due to be held on 20 July because of political unrest. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Thitinan Pongsudhirak, Chulalongkorn University

As its political environment remains murky in the wake of the Constitutional Court’s ouster of Yingluck Shinawatra, Thailand now stands at a dire crossroads with deepening rifts and growing risks of more turmoil and mayhem. In the near term, Thailand will either have a problematic election that will be fraught with controversy or it will end up with an appointed government of questionable contrivance. Along the way, the military’s role in Thai politics is likely to widen as violence becomes more deadly, frequent and uncontrollable. Read more…

No luck for Yingluck as Thai elections nullified

Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra casts her ballot in the senate elections at a polling station in Bangkok on 30 March 2014. The NACC has charged Yingluck with malfeasance over her government’s rice-pledging scheme and the senate has the authority to impeach Yingluck. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Thitinan Pongsudhirak, Chulalongkorn University

The recent decision by Thailand’s Constitutional Court to nullify the 2 February elections has put the country on a collision course between those who advocate electoral democracy, even at the cost of corruption, and others who are bent on unelected rule based on what they see as virtuous moral authority. Read more…