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…

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…

Thailand’s rice subsidy scheme rotting away

Thai farmers battle with soldiers as they protest the government's repeatedly delayed payments for rice submitted to the pledging scheme at the government's temporary office in Bangkok on 17 February 2014. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Peter Warr, ANU

Thailand’s rice subsidy scheme has turned into a political and economic disaster. The problem could have been avoided if the government had listened to its own advisors.

Raising the price of rice received by Thailand’s rice farmers was a key promise of the ruling Pheu Thai Party at the 2011 election Read more…

Give Thailand’s democracy a chance

An election official reads a ballot during a vote counting after the general election in Bangkok on 2 February 2014. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Thitinan Pongsudhirak, Chulalongkorn University

Thailand went ahead with the polls on 2 February despite a boycott by the opposition Democrat Party and blockades by anti-government protestors. Unsurprisingly, the election failed to resolve the political deadlock. Yet despite the as-yet incomplete and inconclusive poll results, electoral democracy ironically works in Thailand. Read more…

Land of the free still trapped in political turmoil

Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra answers questions from the press after voting at a polling station in Bangkok on February 2, 2014. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Pisit Leeahtam, Chiang Mai University

Thailand’s economy began 2013 with initial forecasts for yearly growth ranging between 4.5 per cent and 5.5 per cent. The country had recovered from the 2011 flooding and the stock market had enjoyed a sharp rise since 2012. External demand was expected to improve thanks to signs of an upturn in the United States and Japan. General sentiments were high, although concern over domestic consumption grew out of rising household debt. Read more…

Rallying ‘round the flag in Thailand

A Thai anti-government protester waves the Thai national flag as he joins a rally at Silom road, a major business centre in Bangkok, Thailand, 5 February 2014. (Photo: AAP)

Author: David Hopkins, Melbourne

For the anti-government protest movement in Bangkok, the colours of the Thai national flag have been adopted as a kind of uniform of dissent. They are a binding symbol of opposition to Thaksinism and all that it is supposed to represent — corruption, nepotism, cronyism, vote-buying, anti-royalist tendencies and other alleged abuses of power attributed to the former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra and other pro-Thaksin parties since 2001. Read more…

Resolving Thailand’s deadly political imbroglio

Thai anti-government protesters shout slogans as they gather outside a polling station and block its access in Bangkok on 26 January, 2014. The protesters besieged polling stations around Bangkok forcing dozens to close as advance voting for controversial elections got under way, deepening doubts over the viability of the ballot scheduled for 2 February. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Peter Drysdale, Editor, East Asia Forum

Southeast Asia’s second-biggest economy, and one of its real economic success stories over the past decade, is stalled in a political standoff that threatens not only to halve its recent 6.5 per cent growth rate to 3 per cent this year but also undermine the fragile foundations of its democracy. Read more…

Blowing the whistle on Thai democracy

Thai anti-government protesters take to a street with a giant national flag during a march in Bangkok on 25 January, 2014. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Jacob Hogan, Chulalongkorn University

Amidst glitzy department stores and brand-name billboards, somewhere between 170,000 and 3 million self-described ‘peaceful’, ‘sophisticated’ and ‘educated’ protesters have paralysed central Bangkok in the past week. They are demanding the government’s resignation and the appointment of an unelected ‘council of elders’ to push through sweeping reforms in order to restore democracy and eliminate corruption in Thailand. Read more…