Thailand’s junta has relinquished military rule in favour of pseudo-democracy in which a pro-military party governs with a narrow parliamentary majority. There are no obvious near-term triggers for political turmoil in Thailand, but the country’s fundamental political and social divisions have not been bridged, and there is potential for future conflict. In the deep south, the Malay-Muslim separatist insurgency continues, while the dialogue process appears moribund. Crisis Group aims to reduce the risk of escalation in the south and limit medium-term threats to political stability by supporting strengthened democratic institutions and promoting substantive peace talks. 

CrisisWatch Thailand

Unchanged Situation

Constitutional Court ruled Move Forward Party’s lèse-majesté stance unconstitutional, Court of Appeals handed activist 50-year prison sentence, and govt signalled talks with main southern separatist group may resume in Feb. 

Constitutional Court ruled on cases concerning future of Move Forward Party. After stunning victory in May 2023 general election, Move Forward Party’s leader Pita Limjareonrat was suspended from MP duties due to allegations he broke election law by holding shares in media company during election campaign. Constitutional Court 24 Jan ruled Pita did not violate election regulations. Constitutional Court 31 Jan ruled that Move Forward Party’s efforts to amend Section 112 of Criminal Code – the lèse-majesté law – violate constitution and must cease; verdict will likely trigger legal proceedings to dissolve party. 

Court sentenced activist to 50 years for lèse-majesté conviction. Court of Appeals in Chiang Rai 18 Jan found Mongkol “Busbas” Thirakot, a 30-year-old activist, guilty of eleven counts of lèse-majesté associated with 27 Facebook posts, for which he was sentenced to three years imprisonment on each count, which combined with earlier convictions marked record sentence of 50 years. Bangkok criminal court 17 Jan convicted attorney Arnon Nampa of lèse-majesté for three Facebook posts from Jan 2021, sentencing him to four years imprisonment. 

Govt signalled potential return to southern dialogue amid militant attacks. Deputy PM Somsak Thepsuthin 10 Jan met with Malaysia’s General Zulkifli Zainal Abidin, facilitator of peace dialogue with main southern separatist armed group Barisan Revolusi Nasional; talks have been in abeyance for almost one year but govt’s chief negotiator said he expected talks to resume in Feb. Meanwhile, four motorcycle-borne militants 10 Jan opened fire on Border Patrol Police (BPP) vehicle in Bannang Sata district, Yala province, injuring two officers. Militants next day ambushed BPP vehicle in Rueso district, Narathiwat province, killing lieutenant. IED attack 16 Jan damaged BPP vehicle in Sri Sakhon district, Narathiwat province, but caused no injuries.

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In The News

9 Oct 2022
There’s a sense of hopelessness [in Thailand] — that there’s no way to effect any kind of real change in the available political avenues. New York Times

Matthew Wheeler

Senior Analyst, South East Asia

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Matthew Wheeler

Senior Analyst, South East Asia
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