Thailand’s political calm hangs in the balance as Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s ruling party decides whether to defy the nation’s highest court and proceed with an overhaul of a military-influenced constitution.
The Constitutional Court on July 13 called for a referendum before rewriting the charter ratified after a 2006 coup that ousted former leader Thaksin Shinawatra, Yingluck’s brother. Lawmakers “must take responsibility for their next move” if they proceed with a vote to redraft the constitution, court spokesman Pimon Thammaphitakphong told reporters.
Moving forward without a nationwide vote could “invite more explosive protests from the other side,” Somjai Phagaphasvivat, a political science lecturer at Thammasat University in Bangkok, said by phone. “Tensions remain high and this will be the situation for months and years to come.”
The court’s insistence that a nationwide vote is required before rewriting the charter amounts to a threat against the government and parliament because the judiciary is asserting powers that aren’t granted in the constitution, according to Kanin Boonsuwan, a law lecturer at Chulalongkorn University who submitted testimony in favor of the amendment.
“If the government and parliament yield to this threat, it means this country is not democratic,” Kanin said. “Next time there is no need to have an election. Just let the court be the ruling party.”
The Constitutional Court’s intervention in parliamentary affairs sets “a very dangerous precedent” that could lead to a “more explosive crisis” in the future, according to Chris Baker, a Bangkok-based political analyst and historian who has co-authored several books on Thailand.
“This whole incident has probably shown that Thaksin cannot return too soon,” he said. “This is just a small step in a long process.”