Thailand’s simmering security crisis gathers steam

Thai Muslim villagers carry the body of a villager who was shot dead by suspected separatist militants in Thailand's restive southern province of Narathiwat on 2 January 2015. Violence in Thailand's Muslim-majority south has left thousands dead — the majority civilians. (Photo: AAP).

Author: John Blaxland, ANU

A quiet but increasingly deadly struggle is taking place in Thailand’s deep south.

But why has the security crisis in the three southernmost insurgency-affected provinces of Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat proved to be so intractable and drawn out? Read more…

Thailand’s Cambodian charm offensive

Prime Minister of Thailand Prayuth Chan-ocha walks upon arriving at the international airport in Naypyidaw to attend the ASEAN Summit on 11 November 2014. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Chheang Vannarith, University of Leeds

The recent state visit by Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha to Cambodia represented part of the Thai military government’s uphill diplomatic battle to build and strengthen its legitimacy abroad. This visit occurred amid mounting diplomatic pressures from Europe and the US, calling for a rapid return to democracy. Read more…

Uncertainty at home brings calm to the Thai–Cambodian border

Thousands of anti-government protesters march in front of anti-riot policemen on a main road during a massive rally in central Bangkok, Thailand, 11 November 2013. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Nicole Jenne, European University Institute

Domestic uncertainties in Thailand and Cambodia have hindered progress along the heavily militarised border and the Preah Vihear temple dispute.

Between 2008 and 2011 the border around the ancient Khmer temple of Preah Vihear (Phra Viharn in Thai) was the site of repeated clashes between Thai and Cambodian troops. Open conflict was put on hold when Cambodia submitted the dispute to the International Court of Justice in 2011. Read more…

Thai–Cambodia relations one year after the ICJ judgement

Cambodian Buddhist monks walk through the compound of Preah Vihear Temple near the Thai–Cambodian border and about 245 kilometres (152 miles) north of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Tuesday, 12 November 2013. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Greg Raymond, La Trobe University

The Thai–Cambodia dispute over the Preah Vihear temple (called Phra Viharn in Thailand) is one of the worst intra-ASEAN conflicts on record. At least 34 people were killed during intermittent hostilities over the three years. 11 November 2014 marks the first anniversary of the International Court of Justice’s (ICJ) reinterpretation of its judgement dispute. The ICJ’s decision on 18 July 2011 to reconsider its 1962 ruling ended a three year armed border conflict, from 2008 to 2011, over the area around the temple. Read more…

Infrastructure spending is the medicine Thailand’s insecure economy really needs

Thai military junta head and new Prime Minister General Prayuth Chan-ocha greets in the traditional Thai way as he leaves after a meeting of the instruction on the procedures of members of the national reform council at the Army Club in Bangkok, Thailand, 4 September 2014. (Photo: AAP).

Authors: Pisit Leeahtam, Chiang Mai University & Cynn Treesraptanagul, Chiang Mai

In May 2014, the Thai army, known as the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) staged a coup d’état to prevent civil war breaking out after months of political deadlock and administrative paralysis. Since then, the interim constitution has been enacted, the new cabinet has received royal endorsement, and the National Legislative Assembly and the National Reform Council have been established. 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

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…

Why Thailand must decentralise

Is Thai democracy, like the Democracy Monument, closed for renovations? (Photo: Peter Warr).

Author: Peter Warr, ANU

Bangkok’s iconic Democracy Monument is currently fenced off. A large, hand-written sign reads ‘closed for renovation’. In April the monument was damaged by shots fired at protesters demonstrating against the Pheu Thai government of Yingluck Shinawatra. At least three protesters died.

Ironically, Thai democracy is itself ‘closed for renovation’. On 22 May a military coup claimed power, for the 12th time since the 1930s. Read more…

Thai coup’s short-term gains mask long-term pains

Head of the Thai military junta, army chief and now prime minister General Prayuth Chan-ocha adjusts his cap during a military ceremony at the 21st Infantry Regiment in Chonburi province, Thailand, 21 August 2014. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Pavida Pananond, Thammasat University

In the aftermath of Thailand’s 22 May military coup, business and politics appear to have converged. Domestic and foreign businesses of all stripes heaved a collective sigh of relief when the military seized power, halting six months of debilitating and intractable anti-government street protests. But despite initial post-coup business optimism, and the impression that commerce is booming, Thailand’s latest putsch may bring long-term pain. Read more…

Thailand’s interim constitution: paving the way for a return to authoritarianism?

Pornpetch Wichitcholchai pays his respects in front of a portrait of Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej during a royal command ceremony to swear him in as president of the army-appointed National Legislative Assembly at Parliament in Bangkok, 18 August 2014.  (Photo: AAP)

Author: Sarah Bishop, ANU

Thailand, for the 19th time in 82 years, has a new written constitution. The King promulgated the Constitution of the Kingdom of Thailand (Interim) B.E 2557 (2014) on 22 July 2014, finally bringing an end to the nation’s fourth longest period since 1932 without a written constitution. However, although there are some small gains, there are very few positive signs for democracy or rule of law. Read more…

Is Thailand Southeast Asia’s weak link?

Protesters vent their anger in Bangkok on 25 May, after the junta placed all law-making authority in the hand of Thailand's army chief. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Peter Drysdale, Editor, East Asia Forum

Thailand is Southeast Asia’s second-biggest economy and has been one of its economic success stories over the past decade. The coup after the recent political standoff threatens not only to slash its recent 6.5 per cent growth rate but also trash the fragile foundations of its democracy.

While Indonesia is the region’s largest economy and the epicentre of the ASEAN polity and Singapore is its anchor in trade and financial intermediation with the global economy Read more…

Learning from Thailand’s political woes

Protesters in Bangkok confront a police officer during demonstrations against the junta. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Nicholas Farrelly, ANU

With the coup d’état of 22 May 2014, Thailand vaulted back to its familiar position as a cautionary tale. After much speculation, General Prayuth Chan-ocha announced that the military was, once again, in charge.

Since the second half of 2013 the opponents of former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra ran an effective and demoralising campaign against her government. Read more…

The Cambodian fallout from Thailand’s coup

A Cambodian migrant worker who recently crossed the border carries his belongings through the crowd after arriving in the city of Poipet on the Thai-Cambodian border on 18 June 2014. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Leng Thearith, UNSW Canberra

Last month saw the 19th coup d’état in Thailand since 1932 but, unlike previous regime changes, this coup has significant regional implications — especially for Thailand’s neighbour, Cambodia. These are both economic and political. Read more…

China is a big winner from Thailand’s coup

Thai people are allowed to pose with riot and special forces soldiers at a 'Bring Back Happiness to Thai People' event in the central Lumpini Park once occupied by protesters, in Bangkok, Thailand, 15 June 2014. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Patrick Jory, University of Queensland

While the recent military coup in Thailand has drawn much of the world’s attention to the military junta’s suppression of democracy and human rights, it also has far-reaching geopolitical implications for the whole of Southeast Asia.

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…

Peering into Thailand’s turbulent future

A Thai pro-government Red Shirt protester holds a placard showing a picture of caretaker Thai Premier Yingluck Shinawatra during a rally on the outskirts of Bangkok, Thailand, 6 April 2014. (Photo: AAP)

Authors: Pasuk Phongpaichit, Chulalongkorn University, and Chris Baker, Bangkok

The courts may shortly remove Thailand’s prime minister, Yingluck Shinawatra.

This would mean that in the past eight years, four prime ministers have been felled and four election results voided — surely a world record. Read more…