Thailand’s 2023 general election resulted in a coalition government that left the leading party, the progressive Move Forward, in opposition. The country’s fundamental political and social divisions have not been bridged. If electoral participation continues to fall short in effecting change, people may be drawn to other means of doing so. The potential for conflict therefore remains, though it is not obvious what might trigger turmoil in the near term. In the deep south, the Patani-Malay separatist insurgency continues, while the dialogue process appears dormant. Crisis Group aims to reduce the risk of escalation in the south and limit medium-term threats to stability by supporting strengthened democratic institutions and promoting substantive peace talks.

CrisisWatch Thailand

Unchanged Situation

Deep south peace dialogue resumed amid militant attacks; activist’s death in detention sparked controversy and authorities convicted opposition MP and charged former PM Thaksin Shinawatra for lèse-majesté.

Deep south peace dialogue resumed as militants staged attacks. Govt delegation and representatives of main southern separatist group Barisan Revolusi Nasional 19-21 May held 10th Joint Technical Committee Meeting of Joint Working Group Peace Dialogue Process (JWG-PDP) in Malaysia’s capital Kuala Lumpur; sides discussed reduction of violence, monitoring mechanisms and Terms of Reference for monitoring teams. Malaysian facilitator’s office 21 May declared itself “gratified” with progress. Meanwhile, in Pattani province, officers 1 May killed two suspected militants in Thung Yang Daeng district; IED secreted in motorcycle 6 May wounded two defence volunteers and two civilians in Muang district. In Narathiwat province, IED explosions 20 May killed two defence volunteers in Sukhirin district.

Activist died in custody, as authorities used lèse-majesté to stifle dissent. Following 110-day hunger strike, imprisoned activist Netiporn Bung Saneysangkhom 14 May died after suffering heart attack; Netiporn was awaiting trial on charges including lèse-majesté for conducting public opinion polls about royal motorcades. After PM Srettha Thavisin 15 May pledged transparent investigation, lawyer next day said autopsy found her stomach empty, raising questions about treatment. Opposition Move Forward Party (MFP) MP Rangsiman Rome 15 May assessed “faith that people of Thailand have in our justice system is at an all-time low”. As Constitutional Court considered case to ban MFP, Court in Pathum Thani province 27 May convicted Chonthicha Jangrew, MFP parliamentarian, of defaming monarchy for 2021 speech calling for release of political prisoners. Office of the Attorney-General 29 May announced former PM Thaksin Shinawatra will be indicted on charges of lèse-majesté and computer crimes for 2015 speech in South Korea.

Caretaker senators sought dismissal of PM. Forty senators 17 May petitioned Constitutional Court to dismiss PM Srettha Thavisin and PM’s Office Minister Pichit Chuenban from office for ethics violations; senators maintain that Srettha’s appointment of Pichit breached standards as Pichit served six months in jail in 2008 for contempt of court. Pichit 21 May resigned. 

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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
Matthew Wheeler

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