Although Thailand will officially hold its first general election in five years on March 24, 2019, the notion that the country will become fully democratic as a result is naive at best and dangerous at worst. The fact is that after the election, Thailand will remain just as undemocratic and most likely governed by an undemocratic administration that has seized and held onto power through undemocratic means. It is absolutely imperative that the international community is aware of this and continues to apply pressure on the Thai government to undergo genuine democratic reforms. The current leader, General Prayuth Gen-o-cha, became prime minister of Thailand in May 2014 after engineering a coup following months of street protests against the government of Yingluck Shinawatra. It was Thailand’s 12th coup d’état since the abolishment of absolute monarchy in 1932. Since then, General Prayuth has ruled with an iron grip through essentially unlimited powers that he has granted himself in the 2014 interim constitution. He has arrested hundreds who have dared to criticize the junta and has gone out of his way to stifle both online and offline political discourse.
The upcoming general election in March is almost certainly not going to change the status quo, as General Prayuth is effectively locked in to retain his premiership, courtesy of shrewd electoral and parliamentary engineering. The deliberately designed mechanism of this election ensures the entrenchment and the prolonging of military rule for many years to come.
From the beginning, it was clear that the military government was going to play a major part in the election. After writing the interim charter in 2014, the military government formed the committee to draft a new permanent constitution, which included provisions heavily favorable to itself before organizing a sham referendum to approve the constitution in 2016. The government essentially outlawed opposition campaigning and arrested over 100 people for campaigning against the draft. Furthermore, the referendum used heavily leading questions to sway voters.
The government’s rubber-stamp parliament then passed the laws governing the selection of senators and the election of MP’s with very little public participation. Through these laws, the constitution and other arbitrary orders, the government has meticulously shaped the rules of engagement well before the first ballots are cast. It has also shamelessly departed from several long-held democratic norms that ensure a peaceful transition of power. And these are just the methods that are known, with surely countless more hidden from the public eye.
Full Article: Thailand’s Upcoming Election Will Be Illegitimate.