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Thailand’s democratic dictatorship

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Analysis. After five years, the military rulers of Thailand, with help from the new king, have created a thoroughly undemocratic form of government. Elections are March 24.

written by Claudio Sopranzetti

Also filed under commentary

March 20, 2019

On March 24, Thailand will return to the polls, nearly five years after the coup on May 22, 2014, that removed Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and brought General Prayuth Chan-ocha to power.

Although the elections would appear to promise a return to democracy, many in Thailand are not getting their hopes up for these upcoming elections. The country has changed since Prayuth seized power, and these changes will most likely render the vote a mere formality instead of marking an end to military rule. Just a few years ago, few would have predicted such a situation.

In the 15 years before the 2014 coup, Thailand had experienced an unprecedented political awakening. A period of mass mobilization started in 2001 with the election of Thaksin Shinawatra, Yingluck’s brother, and culminated in enormous mass demonstrations with people wearing red shirts in support of Shinawatra and yellow shirts in support of the opposition, which took place without interruption between 2008 and 2014.

Since Prayuth seized power, however, the military government has managed, against all odds, to beat back the wave of public participation by banning public meetings; closing newspapers, radio and television stations; and persecuting activists from both sides, by means both legal and outside the law.

Thus, in just five years, Thailand has gone from being the model for democratization in Southeast Asia to ranking at the bottom, its freedom indices dropping in 2019 to the same level as in neighboring Myanmar, which is........

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