The impact of the political system in Thailand

Political systems or structures are systems of politics and governmental policies. It refers to the economic, cultural, legal and social systems. A political systems identifies who are in power of the society and ensures the order and rationality in the society (ScienceDaily, 2020). The type of political system in a country is telling how the citizens should live and has a fundamental impact on their freedom, welfare and their entire lives. Some examples of Political systems are: Democracy, Republic, Communism, Monarchy, Anarchy, Dictatorship and Authoritarianism. To this day there are many political systems. The impact of the political system can even have such a big impact that it can lead to civil wars. For example, in a dictatorship one person has absolute power over the entire government. Citizens however may not agree with the policy and want to have a democracy were the people rule by electing the right leader for their country. In countries like Venezuela, Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan, Libya and North Korea issues with the political systems are detected. In some countries there are even civil wars about the political system.

Thailand the country which is known for the authentic Thai food such as curries, Pad Thai and tropical fruits, Thai massages, stunning beaches and nature, temples & ruins is also a country with a less prettier side. The economic growth in Thailand progresses slowly or even barely. This is caused by natural disasters such as the Tsunami in 2004 who killed 8500 people and infectious diseases like the world pandemic Covid-19, avian flu and SARS. Also, institutions are constrained by coups. Since the year of 2006, Thailand has faced many coups by former prime ministers of the country resulting in a imbalanced country (Samnang Kuy, 2014). Political viewpoints are not the same for citizens and the government. A lot of it issues comes forward trough the government.

A survey in 2019 who was conducted by Suan Dusit Rajabhat University showed that 52.22% Thai inhabitants believes the worst things about Thailand is the Politics and the behaviour of politicians and the corruption. 25.80% finds the lack of democracy and freedom the issue. 19.82% the poor economy. 19.18% the lack of unity and 15.34%  the air pollution, garbage and traffic conditions (bangkokpost.com, 2019). As can be concluded the worst things about Thailand have almost everything to do with the government.

Another interesting poll conducted by the National Institute for Development Administration (NIDA) shows that the support in Thai politics with public opinions in politicians and political parties is decreasing. Most of the respondents 41.6% does not support any party. Then the Pheu Thai Party receives the biggest support with 19.3% followed by the Move Forward party with 12.7% and at last the Palang Pracharath party with 12.4%. The democrat party who is the oldest political party in the country and already a member of the government coalition almost disappeared from the poll. The remaining 14% belongs to other small parties. The current Prime minister Prayut Chan-o-cha was chosen by the public while he only received 18.6% of the public votes. More than half of the respondents said they did not even see any suitable Prime
minister candidate among the current politician (Bangkokpost.com,2020).

The history of Thailand’s political structure
Thailand is the only country in the Southeast Asia which is never colonized by the Europeans. From 1932 up and till 1991 Thailand faced 17 coups most of them by the military. The military of Thailand has ruled for most of the time since 1947 with a few exceptions when the country had a democratically elected government.

In 1997, the Asian financial crisis impacted the whole country. The bath currency decreased in value against the dollar which led to bankruptcies and unemployment. In 2004, Thousands of people lost their lives because of a tsunami (BBC, 2019). Two years later the military stages another coup on the former prime minister. The Former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra was accused of corruption by evading taxes he fled the country. When Thaksin was forced to step down, it brought a lot of commotion among the people of Thailand. He had a lot of devoted followers because he was so popular among the rural poor because he was in favour of cheap medical care and debt relief but he was also unpopular among the rich because he was a threat to power. After his step down there were multiple protests (BBC, 2011). Thaksin’s sister Yingluck became prime minister as well from 2011 up until 2014 until the military committed another coup. General Prayut Chan-ocha seized power in a coup and was named prime minster in 2014.

In 2016, voters approve a new constitution which gives the military influence over the country’s political life. However, in 2017 the new king Vajiralongkorn signs a new military drafted constitution which paves the way for a return of democracy. King Vajiralongkorn was next in line since his father King Adulyadej, the longest reigning monarch at the time died. King Vajiralongkorn is not so popular yet and even a lot of people criticize his lifestyle. He has the reputation of a womanizer and living the luxury lifestyle (BBC,2019). In 2019, an election was held and former general Prayut Chan-ocha returns as prime minister of Thailand. However, there are some speculations about the elections and the fact that they could be rigged. (BBC, 2019).

Thailand and its constitutional monarchy
From 1932 Thailand’s political system is a constitutional monarchy with the monarch as the head of the state. This form of political system is in which the king or queen of the countries power is limited by a constitution. The king or queen only acts on the advice of politicians who from the government (Cambridgedictionary, 2020). Since the year of 1932 almost every government accepted the constitutional authority. Up until now the country has 17 constitutions. The leaders of the country are provided by a National Assembly with a prime minister as the head of the government. Power is coming through the bicameral National assembly (bicameral means having two branches, or houses of parliament), the council of ministers and as well the courts with the provision of the constitution and laws passed by the National Assembly. The constitution provides elections for members of the lower house of the Assembly. The house of representatives serve the country for four years. Moreover, the prime minister is required to be a member of the House of Representatives. The Senate of the upper house is elected for a six year term. After those six years there will be new elections. The execution of laws is carried out by the civil service. Those members are known as the servants of the king (Keyes, 2019).

Political parties
The coalition is formed by a group of political parties. The latest general election was on march 24 in 2019. The collation was formed by seven parties; Palang Pracharath, Pheu Thai, Future Forward, Democrat, Bhumjaithai parties. The parties confirmed their alliance soon after the election but were unable to form a government. In total 77 parties contested in the elections.

Palang Pracha Rath Party (PPRP) is a Thai civil-military state sponsored political party. The party has ties to the National council for peace and order and the military junta. This political party was founded in 2018 by Chuan Chuchan and Suchart Jantarachotikul. The Pheu Thai party was a replacement for the people’s power party which was dissolved because members were found of guilty of fraud. The political party was founded in 2008 by the former prime minister Thanksin Shinawatra. The move forward party is a social-democratic party in Thailand that fights against the remaining influence of the military junta. The party was founded in 2014 as the Ruam Pattana Chart Thai Party. The democratic party is the oldest political party in Thailand. The party was founded in 1946 by a group of members of the parliament. The party stands for all the people and is against all forms of dictatorship and promotes democracy (Royalthaiembassy, 2020). The Bhumjaithai Party is a populist political party which was founded in 2008. The party supports the monarchy and takes a social conservative viewpoint but as well takes a liberal economic standpoint.

Critics on the political structure
Back in the days, Thailand had a freedom of speech. However, since the year of 2014 after the military coup that changed. It was not allowed to speak heavily about the government, military, king or prime minister. As well activist who seek the return of democracy or criticized the military rule online were punished. Punishments began with ‘’attitude adjustment’’ session of a week in order to change the view of the defendant. Those charges became heavier. Peace and order (NCPO) intimidated and silenced defendants through abusive prosecutions, arbitrary closure of tv/radio and internet and put a censorship on online content. According to the Thai nongovernmental organization iLaw at least 929 people have been obligated to participate in the ‘’attitude adjustment’’ sessions. Others have been threatened, harassed and followed. In September 2015 Prime minister Prayut told the media that he would not tolerate criticism on his government and said no one could oppose him. If the people still would not learn he would detain them again and again he would even tape their mouths.

Thai authorities even disrupt academic seminars and public discussions. In august 2017, four participants of the International Conference on Thai studies were brought to court and were charged with violating the NGPO’s ban for making the hunger games three finger sign and holding banners which contained critical texts about the military. In 2018, NGPO continues with summoning members of the Pheu Thai party and the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship which are also known as the red shirts because they are accused of opposing military rule and need ‘’attitude adjustment’’. The red shirts began as supporters of the former Prime minister Thaksin. This group people are fighting for a democracy and in the last 14 years they organized multiple protests against the military. One of their protests in April 2010 led to tens of thousands of people stormed the parliament and a satellite transmission base in order to restart a television station which was shut down by the government. Four soldiers and 17 civilians died during this protest. Only one month later troops of the government infiltrated a red shirt camp and a group of leaders was arrested. Again people (protestors and soldiers) lost their lives (BBC,2012).

A lot of Thais are afraid to speak out about the current political system. They are taught from birth to love the monarchy and to be silent about speaking about it. A powerful commander, Apirat Kongsompong even made a statement by saying that hating your own country is a disease which is not curable.

However, recently Thais are feeling more confident to speak out about the government and in general about politics. Especially the youth is protesting more and more. The youth says that they will continue protesting until the government agrees on their three demands which are: the parliament dissolves, the constitution will be rewritten and the authorities stop with harassing activist. The youth is protesting in large groups and identifies itself at the free youth. The protestors created a Japanese hamster as character which turned into a rebel symbol. Moreover, they changed the lyrics of the Hamtaro theme song to a anti-government anthem and the three fingered sign which is know from the hunger games movies is spotted again (BBC, 2020).

 The young generation speaks out

Danai

Danai (his name is changed in order to protect his identity), a young men who is 19 years old is in discussion for already some time with his father. The discussion is about the constitutional monarchy and that impacts their bond. Danai is a law student and he is one of the protesters who is protesting for a change in the monarchy. His father is a well-travelled upper middle class man and has an incredible amount of love for the monarchy.

If both men speak about the monarchy and discuss their viewpoint it always leads to an argument says Danai. Therefore, they try to avoid the topic and speak about something else. These kind of disagreements are happening more often in the homes of Thai people. The younger generation is doubting the government but the older generation feels like you should not talk badly about it. Danai’s father believes that the teachers of the university are responsible for his sons behaviour. He says that the internet and social media is pouring misleading information and fake news. The youth is taking that information as the truth. Danai is very straightforward with sharing his opinion and tells that when King Rama IX died he posted a message on Facebook showing his compassion and respects. He now regrets doing that and realised that what was told about the king was all propaganda (BBC,2020).

Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul

A 21 year old girl who is one of the protestors and fighting against the monarchy. At a protest in August 2020 she speeches in front of a large crowed and reads out a 10 point manifesto which urges a reform of the monarchy. Speaking out about the government is risky and especially because she did that openly but she felt like it was h  er responsibility and she wanted to contribute. In that speech she called for the power and wealth of the king to be restrained. Its budget should be reduced, the kings private funds should be separated for the crowns assets and the king should not provoke any further coups. Moreover, criticism on the monarchy should not be forbidden (theguardian.com,2020). Her perspective is that the first step to restoring real democracy again is to limit the power and role of the monarchy. Thailand is a country were the monarchy and military have some kind of relationship, politicians blur the lines between the government and the crown. The last are made to protect the king and to silence opponents. The manifesto has a meaning of adjusting those laws and cutting back on political spending with regards to the royal family. The military and the Prime minister were caught by surprise by this manifesto (npr.org,2020).

The future of Thailand’s politics
It is difficult to predict if Thailand’s political situation worsens or will get better. The gap between the civilians and the military leaders (government) can get bigger. Analysts say Thailand is more divided as ever. Peter Mumford, head of Southeast Asia coverage for the Eurasia Group said he would be amazed if this government would last the whole four years. The separation is feasible since Former prime minister Thaksin’s stepped down and the protest began with the ‘’red shirts’’. However, now a lot of young people are speaking out and showing they have enough. A new battle is upcoming and the political structure is questioned and might change (Peter,2019).

 

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