A roundup of 2014: The deprivation of the rights by a civilian sector which has paved the way for the seizure of power and rampant human rights abuse

Late 2013, Thailand’s political situation has plunged into turmoil. MPs from the Phue Thai Party proposed the Amnesty Bill "the blanket version" for parliamentary reading causing outcries and massive demonstrations. Even though the Bill was eventually scrapped, but it has failed to douse the flames of political hostilities. Mass mobilization has been ignited and spread far and wide; starting from demanding the withdrawal of the Bill to an ouster of the incumbent government. Even after the government announced a House Dissolution, the opposition movement has changed their demand to “reform before election”.


Concretely, the People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) and its supporters have pushed forward the campaign "reform before election" using various tactics to prevent elections from happening including blockading polling stations to prevent people from casting their votes.


Later, the block against the exercise of voting right by the masses who succumbed to the concept of "reform before election" has paved the way to a dead end for the country giving a pretext for the military to commit a coup and impose Martial Law as well as to severely curtail rights and liberties of the people.


From Anti-Amnesty Bill to reform before election


1 November 2013, the House of Representatives has swiftly passed the Amnesty Bill prompted a massive number of people to throng the streets to oppose the draft law. Starting at various spots, they were then consolidated into large demonstration sites at the Sam Sen railway station, Victory Monument and the Government Complex. Satellite protesting sties also sprouted in front of the Bangkok Art & Culture Centre, Ratchaprasong Intersection, Lumbhini Park, etc.


7 November 2013, the opposition to the Amnesty Bill has gained much more momentum causing the MPs who supported the Amnesty Bill to decide to withdraw it from further reading.


Meanwhile, the Prime Minister announced that the attempt to promulgate the Bill was simply to help people who have suffered from impacts of the previous coup, but not to exonerate any persons convicted on corruption charges. Also, since all versions of the Bill have been withdrawn, she urged that all demonstrations should stop.


11 November 2013, the Senators decided against the Amnesty Bill with 141 votes against and one abstention.


15 November 2013, the demonstrations dragged on and the demand has been upgraded from simply opposing the Amnesty Bill to the uprooting of the "Thaksin regime". They claimed that the Amnesty Bill was simply a toxic fruit of the toxic tree which is the Thaksin regime. 


The demonstrations and political situation have become extremely intense. The PM decided to call a House Dissolution on 9 December 2013 and scheduled the next election day on 2 February 2014 hoping that by calling a House Dissolution, the power would be returned to the people who would make their decisions. They deemed a snap election the best solution to the situation. Yet, it has failed to quell the protest. Now, the demonstrators have come up with a new demand to set up a People’s Council and reform before election.


Amidst the tense political climate and all the uncertainties, spotlights were beamed at the military as they have been a prominent actor in Thai political scenes. On 27 December 2013, Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha, the Commander in Chief, stated ambivalently about the possibility of a coup, while insisted that a solution had to be found through dialogue.




Polling station blockade paving the way to a coup


13 January 2014, PDRC core members organized a massive demonstration in various main streets of Bangkok  (Shut down Bangkok) to intensify their protest. They hoped to bring down the government with this grand finale and to campaign against the exercise of voting right. While the demonstrations protracted, the government has decided to declare an emergency situation on 21 January 2014 to control the situation, though it seemed to be ineffective.


26 January 2014, the demonstrators disrupted advance voting in Bangkok and in the South causing around 440,000 voters unable to vote. For example, in the province of Trang, the Trang PDRC mobilized to lay siege to the polling station since early morning making it impossible for the election officials to carry out their duties. In Nakhon Si Thammarat, demonstrators laid siege to all polling stations in the entire province making advance voting impossible as well. Meanwhile, in Chumporn, the PDRC demonstrators put up a stage in front of polling stations since 05.00am to prevent the officials from unloading and receiving the ballots and the ballot boxes.





Source Thairaht Online


31 January 2014, Suthep Thuaksuban announced on the PDRC stage that they would allow people to cast their votes on 2 February 2014. 


But on 1 February 2014, one day prior to the Election Day, fresh violence broke out in Bangkok with the clashes between the PDRC demonstrators who disrupted the unloading of ballot boxes in Lak Si District Office while the 200 strong pro-government demonstrators were confronting them. The standoff has eventually led to a bloody fight and gunfire exchange causing at least six injuries among the demonstrators.


One of the most glaring incidences was the fate of  Uncle Akaew, 72 years, who was observing the demonstration at Lak Si since he felt concerned about his daughter who was selling food in a department store, IT Square, nearby. He was standing on the side of the pro-government demonstrators and was shot. Suffering paralysis for eight months, he later succumbed to death.


As a result of the violence, the Election Commission of Thailand (ECT) has decided to suspend voting in Lak Si district. In addition, voting in the provinces of Chumporn, Trang, Pang-nga, Patthalung, Phuket, Ranong, Songkhla, and Suratthani was also rescheduled as no ballot boxes have arrived there.


2 February 2014, the Election Day, voters in Din Daeng protested against the PDRC demonstrators who were blockading the polling station making them unable to cast their votes inside the compound. They were demanding their right to cast the votes.


On the same day, PDRC supporters also laid siege to different polling stations in Bangkok and Southern provinces and it has led to clashes between the voters and the demonstrators in various places including in Hat Yai where the PDRC demonstrators were blockading the Hat Yai main post office causing it from distributing the ballots to various other provinces in the Southern Border Provinces. The polling station in Bang Saphan District, Prachuap Khiri Khan province, was also laid siege by the PDRC demonstrators as well.


In Bangkok, the 17th polling station was shut down in Ban Don Mosque, Thong Lor as large firecrackers were thrown inside and the demonstrators blew their whistles to demand the cancellation of the election. Polling stations in Lak Si, Din Daeng and Ratchathewi were also blockaded by the PDRC demonstrators, while in the Districts of Bang Kapi and Bung Kum, due to an insufficient number of officials, some polling stations could not be opened for voting.


According to the ECT, elections could be held successfully in 68 provinces with 20,530,359 voters who came to vote or 47.72% of the number of voters in 68 provinces and in nine provinces, elections could not be held at all.


21 March 2014, the Constitutional Court decided that the elections on 2 February 2014 were unconstitutional since they were not conducted at the same time throughout the country and within the same day. Thus, it was against the Constitution and a recommendation was made to holding the elections on one single day throughout the country.


The decision of the Constitutional Court has drawn out uproars from academics and the Phue Thai Party. Kan Yuenyong, a political analyst, said succinctly that it was attempt by independent regular agencies to remove Yingluck and the cabinet from their office by creating this power vacuum. Meanwhile Sodsri Sattayatham, former ECT member and former Justice, criticized that it was an attempt to freeze the country and urged that people should come out in droves in the next Election Day in order to “restore democracy”.


On the same day, a student group with a motto  "Respect My Future" gathered at the Democracy Monument and had black clothe wrapped around the monument to symbolize a death of democracy. Another group of people was holding another activity “Respect My Vote” to demand resignation of the judges of the Constitutional Court.


7 May 2014, the Constitutional Court decided to have Yingluck Shinawatra removed as Prime Minister as a result of her misuse of power in the transfer of a government official.


9 May 2014, Suthep and the PDRC core members launched the so called “the last battle” by laying siege to media agencies viewed by them as mouthpieces for the government and convincing them not to propagandize for the government anymore since all the news distributed by them was distorted.


The situation seemed to have culminated the dead of the night on 20 May 2014. Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha, the Commander in Chief, imposed Martial Law invoking the power of the Royal Thai Army claming that the clashes between demonstrators of the two factions seemed not to recede.


21 May 2014, the acting government declared that they had not been consulted with prior to the imposition of Martial Law by the army. Later, the army stated that it was not yet a coup and then invited representatives of the acting government and the demonstrators to have a meeting to figure out solutions.


The afternoon on 22 May 2014, Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha declared on TV that the military under the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) has seized the ruling power already.


Please see other roundups of situation in 2014 here


A roundup of 2014 1/5 : The summoning of individuals and detention invoking Martial Law


A roundup of 2014 2/5: Lèse majesté cases: One step ahead, three steps backward


A roundup of 2014 3/5: Freedom of assembly/opinion and politically motivated charges


A roundup of 2014 4/5: Libel suit and Computer Crime Act are used to stifle free expression


A roundup of 2014 5/5 : Events before and after the coup, self-censorship, online media blockade, shutdown of community radio and others



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