Understanding FoE situation in Thailand

 
Background to the Political Situation in Thailand
 
Long last political confilct
 
Thailand is a sovereign country ruled by democracy with the King as the Head of State. However, after a revolution against the absolute monarchy in 1932, Thailand had at least 13 military coups with 11 unsuccessful rebellions and 20 constitutions. The time period under military governments is longer than the elected governments.
 
The 1997 Constitution has created a new form of democratic government that led to the rise of a successful political party led by Taksin Shinawatra, a business millionaire. Taksin administration and policies became popular among poor people in the countryside along with many corruption allegations. This phenomenon did not satisfy the traditional institutions such as military, judiciaries, bureaucrat and middle class society who cooperated to fight against the new emerging power, that of business politicians. The anti-Taksin movements gathered with ‘yellow’ as a campaign color as it is the color of King Rama IX. While the pro-Taksin movements gathered with ‘red’ as it is a symbol of common people. The political conflict arose around 2005 with the yellow demonstrations against Taksin which led to a military coup on 19 September 2006. The Redshirt movements which fight against the invisible power outside the constitution began since then.
 
Taksin’s younger sister, Yingluck Shinawatra was elected as Prime Minister after the junta-drafted 2007 constitution was enacted. But there are many movements and accusations against her. The big movement, which consisted of conservative groups, professional elites and some NGOs that opposed the political influence of the Shinawatra clan (called People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC)), shut down the country for months in the late 2013. The PDRC rose after Yingluck’s government tried to pass a general amnesty (for her exiled brother), and after a high-level corruption in a failed rice-subsidy scheme was revealed. Yingluck ordered the dissolution of the parliament and called for a new election, contradictory to the demand from protectors to form a new ruling system by people’s assembly and denied the election. This led to a dead end and to a military coup on 22 May 2014 led by General Prayuth Chan-o-cha in the name of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO). 
 
Situation of Human Rights under NCPO regime
 
With the justification of resolving the political conflict in society, the NCPO proceeded to instate martial law on 20 May 2014 and repressed individual liberties and freedoms using political and legal claims. In part, they achieved this through the speedy and forced promulgation of an interim constitution on 22 July 2014. 
 
The absolute power of the NCPO is enshrined and entrenched in Section 44, 47 and 48 of the interim constitution. Section 44 confers absolute power to the head of the NCPO to issue any executive orders and announcements deemed necessary for “the benefit of reform in any field and to strengthen public unity and harmony, or for the prevention, disruption or suppression of any act which undermines public peace and order or national security, the monarchy, national economics or administration of state affairs.” This enables General Prayuth, as the head of the NCPO, to override any checks and balances from the parliament and judiciary. Section 47 states that all executive orders and announcements issued by the junta are “lawful, constitutional, and final.” Section 48 grants immunity from prosecution to the members of the NCPO and all other individuals acting under the orders of the NCPO with regard to the coup, thus giving full discretion to the NCPO to govern without judicial oversight. 
 
A considerable part of the NCPO’s strategy to maintain its hold on power is the use of the existing laws (Section 112 and 116 of the Penal Code) and enacting new laws to enhance military power in judicial process (Head of NCPO Announcement 7/2014 and Order 3/2015), and also other laws to repress opponents to the establishment (the Public Assembly Act (2015), the Computer-related Crime Act, and the Referendum Act). NCPO has summoned more than 1,300 people to report and forced them to be under an ‘attitude adjustment’ program. NCPO has arrested at least 500 people on political grounds. NCPO also established jurisdiction of the military court over civilian cases under ‘national security’ offense or the charges against people who do not kneel before the NCPO.
 
Indeed, the NCPO uses repression as a central strategy to enact and enforce its policies. This was clearly seen in use of the Referendum Act in the August 2016 constitutional referendum. The Act, in effect, criminalised any form of campaigning against the junta-written constitution. Within this repressive environment, the new constitution entrenches the role of the military in the future politics of Thailand with the Senate being fully appointed by the NCPO, a new electoral system that disadvantages large, established parties being instituted, and non-party members eligible to become the Prime Minister. In addition, Section 44 has also been used at least 160 times by General Prayuth to push through a raft of administrative and economic reforms. The NCPO-appointed National Reform Committee is also in the process of drafting a 20-year National Strategy Plan, which is a series of long-term policies that future elected governments will be legally forced to adhere to.