Thai politics Thailand

My favorite chart illustrating trends in Thai governance over the decades

2013 11 20 thai constitution

A study of Thai politics in the 20th century reveals that the country has continuously alternated between democratic and military systems of government. As I mentioned earlier on Twitter, yesterday’s Constitution Court verdict — that the government’s attempt to make the Senate fully elected is unconstitutional — provides an opportunity to share my favorite graphic related to the country’s governance. (The image is available on Wikipedia’s Constitution of Thailand page, copyright Patiwat Panurach.)

As you’ll see above, Thailand’s many constitutions and charters through the years have had varying numbers of elected and appointed executives; political turbulence surrounding such changes has been the norm for Thailand. It’s no different today.

For more on the court verdict, I suggest this Wall Street Journal story. There’s more from The AP, BBC, The New York Times, and Reuters.

Thai politics Thailand

Bloomberg on Thailand’s Constitutional Court Ruling — and What Comes Next

Bloomberg has a comprehensive story on the Constitutional Court verdict (previous posts on this topic are here and here and here):

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.”

Thai politics Thailand

Thailand Constitution Court Verdict: Pheu Thai Not Dissolved; Complaints Against Govt Thrown Out*

Thailand’s Constitution Court ruled today that the charter amendment bill doesn’t represent an attempt to overthrow the country’s monarchy.

The Pheu Thai party is not dissolved.

*However, the court apparently says amending the entire constitution would require a referendum. Parliament can amend articles individually, though.

The AP, in a story, calls it a “compromise verdict.”

There are brief stories from The Bangkok Post and The Nation, with more to come, I’m sure.

Follow Bangkok Pundit on Twitter for more info and analysis.

Thai politics Thailand

Thailand Constitutional Court Verdict: Some Scene-Setters

Here are a few scene-setting stories to contemplate as we await the Thai Constitution Court verdict I mentioned yesterday.

In an AFP story, Professor Thitinan Pongsudhirak says:

Thailand expert Thitinan Pongsudhirak, of Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, said there had been a “systematic effort to undermine and subvert democratic institutions” in recent years.

“In previous judicial dissolutions, the grounds were questionable but less bogus. This time… the verdict is rooted in presumptions about the future which has not happened,” he said.

There will be a severe backlash if we see yet another repeat of the usurpation of electoral rule and this time the court is in a much weaker position.”

Thitinan also has an opinion piece in today’s Bangkok Post. Some key lines:

Thailand’s problem is that those who keep winning elections are not allowed to rule, whereas others who ultimately call the shots cannot win elections.


In some ways, Thailand’s holding pattern is rooted in what can be described as a royalist lockdown. All Thais have lived under this reign. Its most glorious years transpired during the Cold War, when communism was kept at bay and economic development was achieved.

In the early 21st century, the monarchy is challenged by electoral rule with its unscrupulous politicians and political parties as a source of legitimacy. Thais used to be just loyal subjects but more and more of them also now feel like informed citizens with a stake in and access to the political system. The Thai dilemma is how to amalgamate and synchronise the monarchy-centred political order with the imperatives of democratic rule in an acceptable constitution.

There are also stories about the upcoming verdict from Reuters and the BBC.

Stay tuned.

Thai politics Thailand

Thailand Constitutional Court Verdict: Coming Tomorrow

2012 07 12 thai constitutions

Thailand’s Constitutional Court is set to give its verdict tomorrow — yes, Friday the 13th — on the ruling Pheu Thai party’s proposal to amend the country’s constitution.

Supporters say they want a new charter to replace the current constitution, which was drafted by a military-backed government in 2007 following former prime minister Thaksin’s ouster in a military coup.

Opponents say the charter amendment plan represents an attempt to overthrow Thailand’s constitutional monarchy. The case could lead to Pheu Thai’s dissolution.

For a good overview of the situation, see this July 6 AP story.

Meanwhile, AFP says:

Thailand on Wednesday said it was boosting security ahead of an incendiary charter amendment case that could lead to the dissolution of the ruling party, with judges given special police protection.

Deputy Prime Minister Yutthasak Sasiprapa warned that Friday’s verdict, which threatens to rip open the kingdom’s bitter political divisions, “could trigger violence”, but said there was no specific threat of unrest.

Nearly 2,000 police officers are to be deployed around the Constitutional Court as it prepares to rule over claims that plans by Thai premier Yingluck Shinawatra’s party to amend the constitution are a threat to the deeply-revered monarchy.

A verdict against the ruling party could lead to its dissolution, risking fresh conflict in a nation that has been racked by bloody street rallies since huge protests against Yingluck’s brother Thaksin helped topple the tycoon from power in 2006.

The Bangkok Post reports:

If the verdict to be given by the Constitution Court on Friday leads to a change in the government it would have negative impact on the stock market, but the effect would be minimal, Paibul Narintarangkul, chairman of the Federation of Thai Capital Market Organisations, said on Thursday.

At The Nation, commentator Sutichai Yoon notes:

Whatever verdict the Constitutional Court hands down tomorrow over the Constitution amendment crisis, things will get worse before they get better. And it doesn’t really matter which side “wins” because the court’s decision won’t change anybody’s opinion. Most people will continue to hold on to their positions in regard to the ruling Pheu Thai Party and the opposition Democrats.

The Nation also has a story about security, the key issues, and possible verdicts.

Finally, here’s some historical context: Pictured above is a chart showing Thailand’s constitutions through the years — there have been 17 constitutions and charters since the end of absolute monarchy in 1932.

You can see that the documents have mostly alternated between stipulating appointed legislatures and absolute executives. But take a look at the dramatic difference between the 1997 constitution and the current constitution.

Just some food for thought.

(Image copyright Patiwat Panurach, via Wikipedia.)