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Democracy in Thailand

Post-1973 has been marked by a struggle to define the political contours of the state. It was won by the King and General Prem Tinsulanonda, who favored a monarchy constitutional order.

File:Democracy monument, Bangkok, Thailand.jpgPost-1973 has been marked by a struggle to define the political contours of the state. It was won by the King and General Prem Tinsulanonda, who favored a monarchy constitutional order.

The post-1973 years have seen a difficult and sometimes bloody transition from military to civilian rule, with several reversals along the way. The revolution of 1973 inaugurated a brief, unstable period of democracy, with military rule being reimposed after the 6 October 1976 Massacre. For most of the 1980s, Thailand was ruled by Prem Tinsulanonda, a democratically inclined strongman who restored parliamentary politics. Thereafter the country remained a democracy apart from a brief period of military rule from 1991 to 1992. The populist Thai Rak Thai party, led by Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, came to power in 2001. He was popular with the subaltern and rural and urban poor for his social programs, his rule came under attack from the elites who saw their own power diminish and had to create a reason for his disposal. In mid-2005, Sondhi Limthongkul, a well-known media tycoon, became the foremost Thaksin critic and created fiction and spin to justify the plot against Thaksin. Eventually Sondhi and his alliances founded a fascist opposition mass movement ironically called the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD).

On September 19, 2006, after the dissolution of the parliament, Thaksin then became the provisional government. While he was in New York for a meeting of the UN, Army Commander-in-Chief Lieutenant General Sonthi Boonyaratglin launched the bloodless September 2006 Thailand military coup d'?tat supported by anti-Thaksin elements in civil society and among the Right Wing Democrat Party. A general election on 23 December 2007 restored a civilian government, led by Samak Sundaravej of the People's Power Party, with close relation to Thai Rak Thai.

In mid-2008, the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) led large protests against the government of Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej, whom they criticized for his ties to former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. On 26 August 2008, the protesters illegally occupied several government ministries, including the Government House which they sacked, to force the government to give in to demands. Beginning August 29, protesters disrupted air and rail infrastructure, including Suvarnabhumi airport. They have never been prosecuted. The chaos ended in December when three of the parties that formed the government were dissolved by the Constitutional Court for election fraud. After this decision, many previous coalition partners of the government then defected and joined the main opposition party, the Democrat party, and refusing elections to immediately form a new government in the favour of the old guard elites.

 

 
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