Thailand Turning

Thailand’s governmental crisis continues to worsen in the lead up to the birthday of King Bhumibol Adulyadej, one of the most important days in the Thai calendar that pays tribute to the world’s longest reigning monarch.

Protests began calmly but turned violent over the weekend as urban royalist supporters rallied under the leadership of Suthep Thaugsuban, an ex-Democratic Party MP who resigned last week in order to help dismantle the government of Yingluck Shinawatra. In its place, Thaugsuban hopes to install a ‘people’s government’ of non-elected technocrats loyal to the monarchy.

The political crisis began last month when the Puea Thai party of the Prime Minister introduced a bill to the lower house of parliament that, if passed, would have granted amnesty to all Thais facing corruption charges, and excused a number of politicians who were complicit in the violent backlash against protesters in 2010 that left over 90 dead. The introduction of the bill is also controversial due to the fact it would have allowed for former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, and brother of current Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to return to Thailand from self-imposed exile in Dubai where he was indicted for corruption in 2008, according to Reuters

Royalist supporters cite the corruption of both Shinawatra administrations as further reason for their necessary downfall. However, the current Yingluck government has the support of approximately three fifths of the mostly rural Thai population and was elected legitimately 2011, albeit broadly being seen as a proxy for the interests of her brother Thaksin.

On Monday after police removed barricades that were preventing protesters from accessing governmental buildings, Ms. Shinawatra publicly announced that she would negotiate with protesters, and step down if necessary, but warned that the demands of Mr. Thaugsuban were unconstitutional.

The discourse of governmental corruption that has been dominating Thai protests over recent days reflects the findings of the 2013 Global Corruption Barometer, published by Transparency International which states that Thai’s regard public officials and civil servants as the most corrupt members of society. The index found that 47% of Thai respondents felt that the government’s efforts to fight corruption were ineffective while an additional 29% felt that the levels of corruption had increased between 2007-2010. 

The political crisis and high incidence of violent demonstrations in Thailand alsobroadly reflect the Global Peace Index scores the country has received since 2008.

In 2013, Thailand was ranked 130th out of a total of 162 on the Global Peace Index.

The country’s high rates of political instability, violent demonstrations, political terror, and terrorism activity have meant Thailand is ranked among the least peaceful countries of the world, and has not seen notable variation in its score.

Comparatively, two of Thailand’s closest neighbours, Malaysia and Laos, both ranked among the top 40 most peaceful countries in the 2013 GPI, receiving scores of 29 and 39 respectively. This is mainly due to both countries having higher levels of internal and political security, experience little terrorism and much less political terror than their neighbours.

To find out more, compare levels of peace in Thailand, Malaysia and Laos here.


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