New Constitution amidst old Thai politics

Thailand recently approved new constitution through constitutional referendum held on August 7, 2016 with majority. This constitution is 20th constitution of Thailand since the abolishment of Thai absolute monarchy in 1932. In general situation, the constitution should have brought peace and stability in the country, however, the circumstances in which the constitution was adopted is different. The current constitution of Thailand is military backed constitution, giving unreasonable power to military. Any kind of criticism regarding the constitution was and is forbidden with strict punishments by the current ruler, Prayut Chan-o-cha who is former commander in chief of Thai Army. Thus, there was no scope to campaign against the constitution before referendum. Military has been one of the inseparable institution of Thai politics with 12 military coups successful so far.
Thailand has been involved in the political instability since the abolishment of absolute monarchy. The only institution that is stable in Thai politics is its constitutional monarchy. King Bhumidol Adulyadej has been the longest serving monarch and has served the country for 70 years. The people of Thailand regard him to be divine and his each word is regarded with utmost reverence and obligation. Any act against the monarchy is also prohibited by the lese-majeste rule in Thailand, whereby any act or criticism against the monarchy is under punishment with upto 15 years of imprisonment. King Bhumidol also prefers not to intervene in the political affairs of the country. Last time, King intervened in the Thai politics was in 1992.
The rise of Thaksin Shinawatra has been a game changer in Thai politics. The telecommunication billionaire entered into Thai politics with the formation of Thai Rak Thai (Thais love Thais) party in 1998. He was highly popular among the rural Thai people and had promised to recover Thailand out of the Asian Financial crisis. He won the Thai election in 2001 with landslide victory. He completed his full term and was re-elected in 2005. He was widely popular with his poverty reduction schemes, infrastructure set up, universal health care and war on drugs. However, the opposition party was not very happy with the increasing popularity of Thaksin. He was charged with corruption scandals and being not royal to the monarchy. This led to staging of military coup in 2006, when Thaksin was in New York to attend United Nations General Assembly. Since then, Thaksin has been living in exile in different countries. However, his sister Yingluck Shinawatra returned to politics through the formation of Phew Thai (For Thais) party and won landslide victory in 2011 elections. Nevertheless, the history repeated when she was also overthrown through 2013 military coup.
Right now, the Thai politics has been divided into Red Shirt and Yellow Shirt. The Thaksin supporters from the rural part of Thailand are the Red Shirts, which call themselves United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD) and anti-Thaksin Royalists have adopted yellow shirt, the colour of monarch and call themselves People Alliance for Democracy (PAD). The Red Shirts have won every democratic election in Thailand. However, the elite group of yellow shirts have used power and army to continue their regime. Yellow Shirt protests led to the coup in 2006. It also ensured the overthrow of democratically elected government of 2007 and also overthrew the democratically elected government through a coup in 2014.

Now, the military backed constitution has been accepted in Thailand and the fresh elections are set to be held on late 2017 or early 2018. It’s the land where coups are so frequent, 12 successful coups so far and meanwhile, the new constitution has made it easy for the military to stage a coup. However, until and unless, the elites and military would respect the people polls, the violence will be a part of Thai politics for years to come. Moreover, the fragile health of the present King Bhumibal and (not so popular) image of his successor might push Thailand's political future into more trouble. 

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