Country Conditions: The Persecution Of Political Opposition In Thailand
Thailand or more formally, the Kingdom of Thailand is a southeastern Asian country that runs on a constitutional monarchy and a democratic parliamentary system of government. It has three arms of government, namely; the executive, legislature, and judiciary. The judiciary is supposed to be an independent institution, but unfolding events have pinned it to have political inclinations in proceedings. Thailand is a unitary state with Vajiralongkorn (or Rama X) as King and Prayut Chan-o-cha as Prime Minister. The nation has been subjected to a long series of coup d'etat. It holds fourth place amongst countries with the most coups.
Until recent times, Thailand has been a two-party state. More recent constitutional amendments gave room for a multi-party system. The major political parties in Thailand are the Future Forward Party, Palang Pracharath Party, and Thai Civilized Party. The ruling party is the Palang Pracharath Party, while the Future Forward Party being the main opposition.
What is the nature of the Thai persecution of the political opposition? What are the motives of the political opposition? Who are the perpetrators of the persecution of the political opposition? Can the persecution of the political opposition be avoided?
These are some questions that this article aims to find answers to.
Treatment Of The Political Opposition In Thailand
In 2014, Prayut Chan-o-cha the Prime Minister of Thailand led the most recent Thai coup d'etat. He established the National Council for Peace and Order to govern Thailand and seized power as Prime Minister. The National Council for Peace and Order was a military-led organization that functioned until 10 July 2019. Prayut also made laws that granted him amnesty from orchestrating the coup.
Before the 2019 elections, the Future Forward Party emerged as a modern progressive party with much support from the younger Thai generation. The party was led by Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, a young politician and businessman. The party advocates for the demilitarization of the Thai political circle, a better democratic and civilian government, considerable political accountability, a favorable distribution of wealth, decentralization of power, and a social welfare structure that enhances human prestige.
The Future Forward Party was barely a year old at the time of the March 2019 elections. After the elections, the party emerged as the major opposition, clinching the second-most seats in the House of Representatives. Thanathorn was among the elected members.
Threatened by the dynamic force of the new party, the Election Commission brought up a politically motivated case against the Future Forward Party. The party was accused of violating a government law regulating the affairs of political parties.
The party was accused of accepting a loan from the party's leader, Thanathorn Juangroogruangkit to the tune of 181. 3million baht to fund election campaigns.
The allegations levied against the party were politically motivated, as well as a verdict of the court. The Constitutional Court of Thailand dissolved the political party and placed a 10-year ban from politics on 16 of its executive members. Although the Future Forward Party denied these claims, as well as stated that funding was by membership contribution, their plea fell on deaf ears. Notwithstanding, political parties have in times past taken out huge loans to sponsor election proceedings with no legal action against them.
As a result of political bias engineered by the military junta led by Prime Minister Prayut, Thanathorn's election to the House of Representatives was disqualified by the Constitutional Court in November 2019. According to the court's ruling Thanathorn still held shares in a media company making him an ineligible candidate. Thanathorn denied this claim, stating that he transferred to shares before the elections. Yet in March 2010, the Election Commission filed a criminal case against him based on the same claim. If he is found guilty of this allegation, he is bound to face 10 years in prison, a fine of 200,000 baht, and a 20 years political ban.
Following the oppressive measures meted out against the opposition, large-scale protests broke out in Thailand. The protesters are not treated any less as they also suffer brutalities, threats, imprisonment, and various forms of harassment from the authorities.
The high-handedness of the government led to a massive protest across Thailand full stop the process started with youth and student groups in schools across Thailand. The protest started as the Free Youth Movement asking for a repeal of parliament, the drafting of a new constitution, reformation of the monarchy, an end to government harassment, and oppression of people who utilize their right to freedom of expression. The protest attracted much attention from the populace and grew to become the People's Movement and included demands for marginalized and dissenting groups.
In response to the protest, the Thai government enforced a state of emergency under the pretext of Covid-19 control. Some protesters were charged with sedition for making demands concerning monarchical reformation. The police were sent to forcibly quell the protest. Students were often harassed and threatened with expulsion for joining the protest. Many persons were injured, while some were imprisoned.
Currently, there are several calls on international bodies and countries to intervene in curbing the excesses of the Thai government.