Thailand is a country located in the region of Southeastern Asia. Thailand has since practiced a coup in spring 2014 in practice ruled by the military. When the country went to the general elections in March 2019, it was indeed the largest opposition party for Thailand, followed by the military support party. However, the military was able to retain government power through the support of the military appointed senate.
When the parliamentary elections were announced in early 2019 – after being pushed five times – the military had managed to rattle off its own continuing political influence. It had done so, partly through a new permanent constitution that came into force in 2017 (see Political system), and partly by pushing the free media and political opposition around the corruption-convicted and fugitive former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra (see Modern history).
- Countryaah: Country facts and history of Thailand, including state flag, location map, demographics, GDP data, currency code, and business statistics.
Thai domestic politics is characterized by a power struggle between supporters of a traditional power elite – the military, the royal house and Bangkok’s middle class – and the group that sympathizes with the Thaksin camp, mainly rural residents in the east and north.
In May 2014, the military appointed a people-elected government, led by Yingluck Shinawatra, sister of Thaksin. The takeover took place after over six months of government-critical demonstrations in Bangkok. In July and August of the same year, the military junta appointed a temporary government, a temporary legislative assembly and adopted a temporary constitution. Many of those appointed in the temporary institutions were military. In practice, the military council itself retained far-reaching powers.
Switch on the king’s throne
On October 13, 2016, King Bhumibol passed away after several years of faltering health. He had been sitting on the throne since 1946. The vast majority of Thais enjoyed great respect for Bhumibol, which some considered to be almost divine. The monarch was considered the guarantor of the country’s cohesion.
Fifty days after Bhumibol’s death, Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn formally assumed the throne and became Thailand’s new king under the name of Rama X. Vajiralongkorn, lacking the father’s popularity, gradually gained more influence over himself and his inner circle. He dismissed several powerful court officials from Bhumibol’s time as monarch. Vajiralong barley, which itself has a military background, has close ties to the military command. This gave him, among other things, the right to appoint the leader of the country’s influential monk.
At King Vajiralongkorn’s request, in 2017 a number of constitutional changes were made that can be said to strengthen the royal power and give the court the opportunity to intervene in a political deadlock. The king was given control over five government agencies that regulate some of the court’s functions and the security of the palace. In the past, the government or the military had control over these authorities. Nor does the monarch need to appoint an acting head of state when he is abroad.
The royal family is protected by strict so-called majesty laws, which put a gag on open debate and criticism of the royal house. Statements that may be perceived as slanderous by the royal house and thus contrary to the law of majesty can provide up to 15 years in prison per crime. The military and the courts are also protected from criticism by the law.
Deputy Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra was sentenced in September 2017 in his absence to five years in prison for neglect in his role as head of government in connection with a loss-making government program for subsidies to the country’s rice farmers, an important voting group for Yingluck and her political grouping. Yingluck denied the crime and considered himself politically persecuted by his opponents in politics and the military. She left the country some time before the verdict fell.
Parliamentary elections are held
In January 2019, the government announced that the heavily delayed parliamentary elections would be held on March 24. A month earlier, the ban on political parties to run election campaigns had been lifted. The Thaksin camp was gathered in the Party Thailand, while the People’s State Power Party was the military support party. Many young Thai people applied for the newly formed Party New Future.
A surprising appointment at the beginning of the electoral movement led to a backlash for the opposition. On February 8, the Thaksin-friendly Thai Raksa Chart announced that the king’s big sister, Princess Ubolratana, has been named the party’s prime ministerial candidate. The decision, not least, surprised the military, which often motivates its political power holdings by protecting the monarchy. Ubolratana has formally renounced its royal title.
King Vajiralongkorn quickly established that the sister’s political ambitions were “inappropriate” in a constitutional monarchy, and her candidacy was subsequently disqualified by the electoral authority. Thai Raksa Chart accepted the decision. In March, the party was dissolved by the Constitutional Court as a result of the trips around the princess. The court ruled that the royal family should be above politics.
On the same day that the princess announced her candidacy, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha also announced that he would stand as Prime Ministerial candidate for the People’s State Power Party.
The official election result gave the opposition around Shinawatra the most votes, but in order to gain real power, the opposition must win 376 of the 500 seats in the House of Representatives (that is, 75 percent of the vote in the election), as the 250-strong Senate is military-appointed. Through the senators, the military-backed camp needed only secure 126 seats (25 percent of the vote) (see Political system).
As expected, Prime Minister Prayut was re-elected by Parliament’s two chambers in early June 2019 and the following month his new government took office.
New future is forbidden
In November 2019, New Future leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit appeared to face the same fate as many critics of the establishment before him; the Constitutional Court then deprived the opposition leader of his place in parliament. The reason was that he was accused of owning shares in a media company when he was running for parliament, which is not allowed in Thailand. Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit denied the charges and said the decision was politically motivated. A new future had earlier voted in favor of a series of legislative changes that strengthened the king’s powers.
In February 2020, the Constitutional Court decided to dissolve the New Future. At the same time, the court banned party leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit and 15 other high-ranking party members from engaging in Thai politics for the next ten years. The reason for the decisions was that the court considered that New Future financed the party activity illegally when it received a loan from the party leader. New future 65 MPs were given 60 days to join other political parties.
Read more about the events in the Calendar.
Read about the armed conflict in southern Thailand here.
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Authoritarian regimes spread in the countries of Southeast Asia (2018-10-09).
FACTS – POLITICS
Prathet Thai or Muang Thai / Kingdom of Thailand
monarchy, unitary state
Head of State
King Maha Vajiralongkorn (Rama X; 2016–)
Head of government
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha (2014–)
Most important parties with mandates in the last election
For Thailand 136, People’s State Party 115, New Future 80, Democratic Party 52, Thai Pride 50, Other Parties 65, unallocated 2 (2019)
Main parties with mandates in the second most recent elections
For Thailand 265, Democratic Party 159, Thai Pride 34, Thai National Development 19, Chon Buri’s Force 7, National Development Party 7, Five Small Parties 9 (2011)
75% in the July 2011 parliamentary elections, 70% in the March 2019 parliamentary elections
parliamentary elections 2023
Thaksin followers win new election
When elections are held for the House of Representatives, the Right Party wins the People’s Power Party (PPP), which gathers the supporters of Thaksin. PPP receives 233 of the 480 seats. The Democratic Party wins 165 seats, while the Thaination gets 37 seats and 24 Thai seats for Thais. The Neutral Democratic Party receives 9 seats, the Thailand’s United National Development Party 7 and the Royal People’s Party 5 seats.
The constitution is approved in a referendum
The constitution is accepted by a majority of voters in a referendum.
Thaksin’s party is banned
Thaksin’s party Thais love Thais (TRT) is banned by the Constitutional Court. The reason given is that the party is guilty of electoral fraud in connection with the 2005 parliamentary elections.
New constitution is adopted
A proposal for a new constitution is accepted by a committee appointed by the military-led government.