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Progressive opposition Move Forward Party won resounding election victory and began uncertain process of forming govt, while deadly violence continued at high levels in deep south.
Move Forward set about forming next govt. Progressive Move Forward Party (MFP) 14 May won 151 seats – including 32 of 33 Bangkok constituencies – in general election; main opposition Pheu Thai Party won 141 seats, while outgoing PM Prayuth Chan-ocha’s United Thai Nation Party and Deputy PM Prawit Wongsuwon’s Palang Pracharat Party won 36 and 40 seats, respectively. MFP leader Pita Limjareonrat quickly assembled eight-party coalition comprising 313 MPs, short of 376 required in joint sitting of upper and lower houses for majority. MFP and partners 22 May released 23-point agenda, which includes drafting new constitution, ending military conscription and abolishing monopolies; MFP’s pledge to reform lèse-majesté law was absent, likely reflecting need to win over members of 250-member junta-appointed Senate in vote for next govt, likely to take place in Aug at earliest. In meantime, MFP faces hurdles to form govt, including 10 May petition of Election Commission to investigate Pita over alleged illegal holding of shares in media company and possibility that prospective coalition partner Pheu Thai could form its own coalition that includes parties from incumbent govt; prospect of establishment preventing Move Forward from forming govt raises likelihood of mass protests and potential conflict.
Militants in deep south continued violent attacks following escalation in April. In Pattani province, roadside IED 3 May targeted police vehicle in Thung Yang Daeng district, injuring four police officers. Militants 11 May carried out arson attacks in some 30 locations across Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat provinces, targeting mobile phone towers and electricity pylons. In Yala, IED 12 May killed one ranger and wounded three in Bannang Sata district; militants 16 May ambushed police vehicle in Muang district, wounding two police officers. Gunmen 22 May shot and killed Volunteer Defence Corps volunteer in Than To district, Yala. On political front, election winner MFP’s 22 May declaration included pledge to “collaborate on the process of building sustainable peace in the southern border provinces”.
Militants in deep south stepped up attacks, casting shadow over dialogue process; meanwhile, country geared up for May general election that could oust establishment parties.
Security deteriorated in deep south amid surge in militant attacks. Militants escalated violence, including with platoon-strength assaults on defence outposts rarely attempted in recent years. In Yala province, some 20 insurgents 9 April attacked security outpost in Muang district with pipe bombs, grenades and small arms. In Narathiwat province, motorcycle gunmen 9 April killed Muslim defence volunteer in Tak Bai district; militants 13 April attacked security outpost in Sungai Padi district with pipe bombs and assault rifles, wounding three police officers. In Pattani province, IED attack 19 April wounded eight police officers in two-vehicle patrol in Saiburi district. Militants 14 April conducted near-simultaneous attacks in six locations across Pattani, Narathiwat and Yala, including: IED explosion on bridge in Muang; assault on security outpost in Reusoh district, Narathiwat; drive-by shooting on security outpost at Wat Chang railway station in Khok Pho district, Pattani; pipe bomb strike on ranger outpost in Raman district, Yala; and small arms assault on police at Cho Airong railway station, Narathiwat. Escalation comes after main separatist group Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN) had advised Malaysian facilitator, following sixth round of Peace Dialogue Process in Feb, that it was suspending participation in dialogue until new Thai govt enters office after May general election.
Preparation for May elections continued. Ahead of 14 May general election, main opposition party Pheu Thai and progressive Future Forward Party led public opinion polls, dampening prospects for establishment parties led by incumbent leaders PM Prayuth Chan-ocha and Deputy PM Prawit Wongsuwan; convincing victory for opposition parties will complicate efforts by establishment parties to form new govt to preserve political status quo.
Activists ended two month-long hunger strike, king dissolved parliament ahead of May election, while insecurity persisted in deep south.
Activists concluded hunger strike, as country prepared for May election. Activists Tantawan Tuatulanon and Orawan Phuphong 10 March ended 52-day hunger strike that demanded release of suspects detained on lèse-majesté charges and to reform lèse-majesté and sedition laws. Meanwhile, Royal Gazette 20 March announced King Maha Vajiralongkorn had endorsed decree to dissolve parliament; Election Commission next day announced 14 May as date of next general election.
Militant attacks persisted in deep south. In Narathiwat province, militants 2 March threw grenades and fired small arms at army outpost in Si Sakhon district, with no casualties; 50kg IED – twice as large as devices typically used by militants – next day targeted four-vehicle convoy some 800m from outpost, killing two officers and wounding one. In Pattani province, assailants 8 March torched two vehicles belonging to emergency medical services provider in Yaring district. Woman 11 March found IED beneath her mother’s vehicle in Mayo district; police officers removed device with no casualties.
Courts granted bail to several prisoners convicted of lèse-majesté as activists continued hunger strike, while insecurity persisted in deep south amid peace dialogue meetings.
Courts granted bail to protesters amid activists’ hunger strike. Activists Tantawan Tuatulanon and Orawan Phuphong 27 Feb entered 40th day of hunger strike, and fourth day carrying out their protest in front of Supreme Court, demanding release of political prisoners and revocation of lèse-majesté and sedition laws; both women were charged with variety of crimes, including lèse-majesté. Courts granted several bail requests during month: notably, court 9 Feb granted bail to Sombat Thongyoi, convicted of lèse-majesté; Supreme Court 10 Feb granted bail to Sitthichok Sethasavet, convicted of lèse-majesté; Bangkok Criminal Court 17 Feb granted bail to four people jailed following June 2022 pro-democracy protest; Ratchadaphisek Criminal Court 20 Feb granted temporary release of three activists. Meanwhile, authorities indicated that general election is expected to be held on 7 May.
Deep south peace dialogue produced new plan as insecurity persisted. Malaysia’s General Zulkifli Zainal Abidin – newly appointed facilitator of peace dialogue process between main separatist group Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN) and Thai govt – 3 Feb met head of Thai dialogue delegation General Wanlop Rugsanaoh in capital Bangkok. Malaysian PM Anwar Ibrahim 9-10 Feb visited Bangkok, where he expressed optimism about finding solution to instability in southern provinces. Sixth round of Joint Working Group-South Thailand Peace Dialogue 20 Feb commenced in Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur; Thailand and Malaysia next day issued statements that Thailand and BRN agreed on Joint Comprehensive Plan toward Peace with timeframe of 2023-2024. Meanwhile, in Pattani province, IEDs 2 Feb damaged two power poles in Khok Pho district; unidentified gunmen 14 Feb shot and killed retired imam in Saiburi district. In Yala Province, militants 17 Feb ambushed police officers responding to arson attacks in Bannang Sata district, killing one police officer and wounding four.
Pro-democracy activists charged with lèse-majesté went on hunger strike, while Malaysia announced new peace dialogue facilitator amid persistent violence in deep south.
Activists staged hunger strike calling for release of prisoners and revocation of lèse-majesté law. Pro-democracy activists Tantawan Tuatulanon and Orawan Phuphong 16 Jan appeared in court to revoke their own bail; two women are charged with variety of crimes, including lèse-majesté, for conducting public opinion surveys about royal motorcades. Two activists 18 Jan commenced hunger strike while detained at Central Women’s Correctional Institution, demanding release on bail of other jailed activists and revocation of lèse-majesté and sedition laws, and were taken to hospital 20 Jan. Banners same day appeared at Thammasat and Chulalongkorn universities in capital Bangkok, criticising lèse-majesté law and calling on students to defend right to free speech. Hundreds 26 Jan gathered in candlelight vigil in support of two activists. Court in Chiang Rai province same day sentenced activist Mongkhon Thirakot to 28 years in prison for Facebook posts deemed insulting to monarchy.
Malaysia appointed new dialogue facilitator amid attacks in deep south. Malaysian govt 10 Jan announced appointment of former military chief Zulkifli Zainal Abidin as chief facilitator of peace dialogue between Thai govt and main separatist group Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN), replacing Abdul Rahim Noor. Meanwhile, violence persisted in deep south. In Narathiwat province, militant IED attack followed by small arms fire 11 Jan targeted motorcycle-borne defence volunteers in Si Sakhon district, killing one and wounding two. Also in Si Sakhon, security forces 20 Jan killed three militants in gun battle.
Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN) and Thai govt resumed peace talks amid ongoing violence in deep south, while concern amplified over ill-health of princess, presumed to be royal successor.
BRN and Thai govt engaged in dialogue to resolve ongoing conflict. Main insurgent group BRN and Thai officials 7-9 Dec met in German capital Berlin; BRN 10 Dec said group and govt were drawing up “roadmap”, including provisions for safety and legal immunity of BRN representatives to facilitate consultations with locals in southernmost Thai provinces, and shared BRN’s aim of “democratic governance system”. BRN and Thai delegations’ technical teams met 19 Dec in Malaysia.
Violent attacks persisted during month in deep south. In Songkhla province, bomb 3 Dec exploded under railway tracks in Sadao district in rare attack, derailing freight train. IED 6 dec detonated at temporary command post, killing three railway workers and wounding four others. In Bannang Satar district, Yala province, unidentified assailants 6 Dec shot and killed rubber buyer. Militants 14 Dec launched two attacks in Bannang Satar sub-district; attack on security checkpoint wounded four rangers. Militants 31 Dec set fire to car tyres on major roads in Panare, Mayo and Nong Chik districts, Pattani province, as well as police checkpoint in Mayo district. Gunmen same day fired shots at army base in Yaring district, Pattani.
In other important developments. Princess Bajrakitiyabha Narendira Debyavati – widely presumed to be successor of King Maha Vajiralongkorn, despite no official confirmation – 14 Dec fell unconscious at army base in Nakhon Ratchasima province and was taken to hospital; palace next day announced princess was in stable condition. Independent journalist citing palace sources same day reported doctors had pronounced princess dead, with palace allegedly withholding announcement until after new year. Meanwhile, HTMS Sukhothai 19 Dec sank in Gulf of Thailand during storm while conducting ceremony on death anniversary of Prince of Chumphon, regarded as “Father of the Thai Navy”; as of 1 Jan, 76 of 105 passengers were rescued and 24 bodies recovered, with five still missing.
Govt hosted regional summit in capital Bangkok amid modest-sized anti-govt and pro-democracy protests, while deadly violence intensified in deep south.
Protesters held small-scale rallies around Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit. Ahead of APEC summit held 18-19 Nov in Bangkok, anti-govt and pro-democracy protesters, primarily led by “Ratsadon Stops APEC 2022” group, 16 Nov coalesced around Bangkok demanding Prayuth’s suspension as APEC chair, fresh election and cancellation of Bio Circular Green Economy policy. Protesters next day non-violently confronted riot police at Asoke intersection. Several hundred protesters 18 Nov gathered at City Hall Plaza to march to APEC venue; police blocked protesters near Democracy Monument, leading to scuffles that saw 25 arrests and ten injuries after police deployed force, including use of rubber bullets.
Insurgents staged multiple attacks and bombings in deep south. In Pattani province, insurgents 7 Nov opened fire on police and soldiers in Nong Chik district, killing village leader and one insurgent, and wounding two police officers. Insurgents 15 Nov bombed petrol stations in Muang district and Yaring district, firing shots to disperse bystanders and detonating IEDs near pumps. IED attack next day wounded police officer near school in Panare district. In Narathiwat province, insurgents 13 Nov detonated bomb and opened fire on Buddhist villagers in Chanae district, killing one and wounding two, then staged IED attack on armoured security forces vehicle responding to incident, killing army captain. Also in Chanae, Special Operations Task Force troops 19 Nov clashed with insurgents while on rural patrol, killing one insurgent. In Reuso district, insurgents, 16 Nov detonated two pipe bombs near security checkpoint. Militants 22 Nov detonated vehicle-borne IED at apartment block housing police officers and their families in Muang district, Narathiwat, killing one officer and wounding 31 others, including 15 civilians and three children.
Peace process in deep south remained fragile as separatist group Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN) condemned murder of member and deadly attacks persisted.
BRN condemned murder of member amid ongoing violence in deep south. Main southern separatist group BRN 18 Oct issued statement on torture and murder of BRN member Zahri Bin Abdullah whose body was recovered 29 Sept on Thai side of Kolok River, which marks Thailand-Malaysia border, after he had been “picked up in Rantau Panjang” in Kelantan, Malaysia; group said murder would adversely affect dialogue process and decried failure to provide security guarantees to BRN delegation members. BRN 30 Oct issued statement via Twitter that reiterated commitment to peace process, sharing relevant documents such as “General Principles of the Peace Dialogue Process”. Meanwhile, in Pattani province, gunmen 4 Oct ambushed police officer driving in Saiburi district, wounding officer. In Yala province, gunman 15 Oct killed assistant village chief in Bannang Sata district as victim arrived at mosque. In Narathiwat province, IED 21 Oct targeted vehicle carrying rangers and defence volunteers in Chanae district, wounding five patrol members.
Thailand abstained from UN vote condemning Russian invasion of Ukraine. Govt 12 Oct abstained on UN General Assembly resolution condemning Russian invasion of Ukraine as other members of regional body ASEAN except Laos and Vietnam voted in favour; govt had approved similar resolution in March. Thai Ambassador and UN Permanent Representative Suriya Chindawongse justified abstention with reference to “an extremely volatile and emotionally charged atmosphere”, while observers pointed to govt’s desire for Russian President Putin to attend Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation’s summit in capital Bangkok next month.
Pro-democracy demonstrators protested against govt as Constitutional Court ruled that PM Prayuth could remain in post, while attacks continued in deep south.Amid anti-govt protests, court ruled PM Prayuth could stay in post. Pro-democracy protest group Kana Lomruam Prachachon 4 Sept held protest against govt involving hundreds in central Bangkok, following late Aug protests calling for resignations of Deputy PM Prawit Wongsuwan and Interior Minister Anupong Paochinda; protests developed amid PM Prayuth Chan-ocha’s suspension from PM’s duties in Aug pending outcome of case to determine when his term in office began. Constitutional Court 30 Sept ruled that Prayuth could remain PM as his eight-year term limit began with promulgation of constitution in April 2017.Curtailment of peaceful dissent continued. Bangkok court 12 Sept sentenced political activist Jatuporn “New” Saeoueng under lèse-majesté law to two years prison for insulting monarchy by allegedly impersonating queen at 2020 protest.In deep south, insurgent attacks continued. Gunmen on motorcycles 12 Sept killed elderly rubber tapper couple in Muang district, Yala province. IED 20 Sept targeting police patrol detonated in front of hospital in Mai Kaen district, Pattani province, killing one police officer and wounding four others.
Constitutional Court suspended PM Prayuth Chan-ocha amid dispute over legal term limits, while govt and Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN) held talks prior to coordinated attacks in deep south. Over 50 law professors from 15 Thai universities 16 Aug penned open letter to Constitutional Court president arguing that PM Prayuth Chan-ocha’s term ought to end on 24 Aug on basis that Prayuth became PM in Aug 2014 following coup, thus fulfilling eight-year limit. Opposition MPs 17 Aug submitted petition to House Speaker seeking Constitutional Court ruling on term’s end date. Court 24 Aug accepted petition by opposition MPs and suspended Prayuth, giving him 15 days to respond; Prayuth urged people to “respect the decision of the court”. Hundreds of protesters 21-24 Aug rallied against Prayuth’s government in capital Bangkok. Fifth round of Joint Working Group – Peace Dialogue Panel 1-2 Aug took place in Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur between main separatist group Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN) and govt delegation; talks focused on proposals for Draft Terms of Reference for Public Consultation, Reduction of Bilateral Acts of Violence and Joint Working Group formed in Jan. Govt delegation proposed second reduction of violence initiative 15 Aug-30 Nov following on from 3 April-14 May Ramadan Peace Initiative, but BRN said there was insufficient time to conclude agreement. Meanwhile, violence continued in deep south. IED 2 Aug wounded two rangers on motorcycle patrol in Mai Kaen district, Pattani province. IED 15 Aug killed ranger and wounded nine others in Sungai Padi district, Narathiwat province; second IED explosion 300m from first hit responders, killing ranger and wounding seven police officers and one civilian. Militants night of 16-17 Aug staged coordinated bombing and arson attacks targeting 17 convenience stores and gas stations across Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat provinces, causing property damage and killing one in Pasemat subdistrict, Su-ngai Kolok district, Narathiwat. BRN 18 Aug issued Facebook statement claiming responsibility for attacks, expressing regret for loss of life and saying attacks were “intended to strike at the power of capitalism” that “is ruining the economies of communities”.
Govt pledged closer ties to both China and U.S. as PM Prayuth and ten ministers saw off fourth no-confidence vote, while insecurity persisted in deep south. PM Prayuth Chan-ocha 5 July met Chinese FM Wang Yi in capital Bangkok, where pair agreed to “open up a more stable, prosperous and sustainable future for the two countries”. Prayuth 10 July met U.S. Sec State Antony Blinken in Bangkok; Blinken and FM Don Pramudwinai same day signed “Strategic Alliance and Partnership Communiqué” covering areas including trade and investment, climate change and regional cooperation. Domestically, parliament 19 July held fourth no-confidence vote since 2020 against Prayuth and ten cabinet ministers, with 45 hours of censure ending 23 July with Prayuth still in office. Canadian cybersecurity organisation Citizen Lab in collaboration with Thai NGO iLaw and internet watchdog Digital Reach 17 July reported that govt used Israeli-supplied Pegasus spyware to monitor at least 30 activists during Oct 2020-Nov 2021 protests for democracy and monarchy reform. Police 20 July denied govt use of spyware but Digital Economy and Society Minister Chaiwut Thanakamanusorn same day in parliament said authorities used spyware in limited number of cases related to national security without identifying spyware as Pegasus or specifying which govt agencies used it. Insecurity persisted in deep south. In Muang district, Pattani province, security forces 5 July killed suspected insurgent after exchange of gunfire. Unknown gunmen next day shot and wounded Muslim man in same area. Also on 6 July, IED targeting govt car wounded ranger in Bannang Sata, Yala province. Security forces same day killed suspected insurgent in shootout in Reusoh district, Narathiwat province. Govt representatives and main separatist group Barisan Revolusi Nasional 14 July confirmed 1-2 Aug dates for next round of peace talks.
Pro-democracy demonstrators demanded PM Prayuth Chan-ocha’s resignation as opposition tabled no-confidence vote, while militant attacks resumed in deep south. Some 200 pro-democracy protesters in capital Bangkok 11 June marched from Democracy Monument to Victory Monument, demanding PM Prayuth Chan-ocha’s resignation. Following march, several dozen protesters pressed on to Din Daeng district toward Prayuth’s residence at 1st Infantry Regiment base; police confronted protesters who threw bottles, fireworks and set fire to police vehicle near Din Daeng intersection. Pro-democracy protesters 19 June held march on same route, calling for release of people jailed under lèse-majesté law and for law to be revoked; few dozen youths clashed with police at Din Daeng intersection, with no injuries reported but one person hospitalised following seizure, while police arrested two protesters aged 17 and 18. Meanwhile, opposition parties 15 June filed no-confidence vote against PM and ten cabinet ministers; censure debate expected mid-July; vote comes in wake of 22 May Bangkok governor election in which Chadchart Sittipunt — independent candidate and former member of Pheu Thai Party — won landslide victory; result widely interpreted as signal of declining electoral prospects for ruling Phalang Pracharat Party. In deep south, after Ramadan Peace Initiative expired mid-May, unknown attackers 1 June killed Malay-Muslim man in orchard in Bannang Sata district, Yala province; authorities did not draw direct link to insurgency. IED hidden in garbage truck 20 June exploded near police checkpoint in Panare district, Pattani province, wounding three police officers; assailant same night tossed hand grenade at sub-district security operations base in Raman district, Yala. Patani United Liberation Organization (PULO) leader Kasturi Makhota 20 June said PULO likely to join peace dialogue process between main separatist group Barisan Revolusi Nasional and govt.
Truce in deep south between govt and Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN) held as planned until late May, while Bangkok expanded defence partnership with Japan. In deep south, Ramadan Peace Initiative — agreement concluded 31 March between govt and main militant separatist group Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN) for reciprocal reduction of violence 3 April-14 May — held steady, with no attacks attributed to BRN or major operations by security forces during month. After truce expired 14 May, militants 26 May attacked marine police station in Tak Bai border town, Narathiwat province, with IEDs and small arms, wounding one police officer and two defence volunteers; authorities claimed drug traffickers and smugglers responsible for attack. BRN 1 May posted Hari Raya video marking end of Ramadan, criticised increased violence from Thai security forces and suggested Peace Dialogue Process did not conform to international standards; statements came in stark contrast to conciliatory tone expressed at meeting of Peace Dialogue Process working group 31 March-1 April. In Pattani province, in rare mass youth event, several thousand young Malay Muslim men 4 May attended youth event organised by Civil Society Assembling for Peace (CAP) at Wasukri Beach, Saiburi district, to celebrate end of Ramadan and take public oath to defend Pattani Malay culture and identity and “eliminate all forms of oppression”, with at least one BRN flag on display; young Malay Muslim women’s associations 10 May held similar event in Narathiwat province, attended by several thousand. Event organisers 17 May met secretary of Thai dialogue panel Lt Gen Thira Deawa in Pattani province, explaining oath had been mistranslated and that organisers did not authorise BRN flag display; Lt Gen Thira affirmed no legal action would be taken but urged organisers to inform authorities in advance of future events. Meanwhile, activists opposed to draft non-profit organisation bill 23 May began protest near Government House in capital Bangkok; critics say bill threatens civil society and free speech; police 30 May prevented hundreds opposed to draft bill from marching on Government House. PM Prayuth Chan-ocha 2 May met Japanese PM Fumio Kishida, signing agreement on mutual transfer of defence equipment and coordination on regional issues.
Govt and main militant separatist group Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN) advanced peace talks and agreed to Ramadan ceasefire, notwithstanding continued deadly violence in deep south. Govt and BRN 31 March-1 April met for dialogue, with BRN for first time sending member of military wing, Deng Awaeji – indicating BRN effort to demonstrate internal unity. Both sides endorsed General Principles of Peace Dialogue Process previously discussed in Jan working group meeting, committing each side to “political solutions in accordance with the will of the Patani community under the Unitary State of Thailand in accordance with the Constitution”, public consultation and reduction of violence; both parties also agreed to reducing violence from 3 April to 14 May in Ramadan Peace Initiative. Despite pledge holding steady, violence continued in deep south throughout month. Notably, unidentified gunmen 5 April shot dead Malay-Muslim man in Mae Kaen district, Pattani province. Unidentified gunmen 10 April shot and killed Muslim leader in Nong Chik district, Pattani. IED 15 April killed civilian in Saiburi district, with second bomb targeting responding explosive ordnance disposal officers, wounding three; Patani United Liberation Organisation (PULO) president Kasturi Mahkota 16 April claimed responsibility, saying group named PULO G5 carried out attack due to PULO’s exclusion from BRN dialogue with govt. Member of Thai dialogue delegation next day said attack would not derail Ramadan Peace Initiative and that govt was “ready and happy to talk to all groups”. Meanwhile in capital Bangkok, unknown assailants 10 April threw two “ping pong bombs” into First Infantry Regiment compound, location of PM’s residence, with no injuries reported; police next day arrested seven suspects, including rapper and political activist Thanayuth Na Ayutthaya (alias Eleven Fingers), Patima Fakthong, and pro-democracy protest leader Pornpoj Chaengkrachang (alias Phet Phra Uma), along with four minors.
Govt sought unity among coalition parties amid continued speculation over early election before year’s end, while IED attacks persisted in deep south. PM Prayuth Chan-ocha, deputy PM Prawit Wongsuwan and Interior Minister Anupong Paochinda 8 March summoned major coalition party leaders for meeting, stressing need for unity and pledging to finish term. Prawit 14 March hosted leaders of smaller coalition parties, reportedly saying there would be no cabinet reshuffle but election could be called after country hosts regional economic forum APEC summit in Nov. In response to questions from reporters on possible early election, Prayuth 15 March said: “It’s up to me”. Govt’s muted response to Ukraine crisis prompted Swedish Ambassador Jon Åström Gröndahl in 1 March tweet to urge govt to drop neutral language and condemn Russian aggression. Thai delegation to UN next day voted in favour of UN General Assembly resolution demanding end to Russian invasion. Student groups and foreigners in capital Bangkok staged regular protests in front of Russian embassy through mid-March. In deep south, roadside IED 10 March exploded alongside armoured patrol vehicle near school in Bannang Sata town, Yala province, wounding four rangers and two volunteers. In Pattani province, IED 16 March wounded four rangers in Mayo district. Gunmen 20 March shot and killed Muslim man at tea shop in Yarang district. IED 26 March wounded four rangers in Si Sakhon district, Narathiwat. Some 35 cloth banners with messages of “Free Patani” and “Patani is not Siam” 13 March appeared attached to helium balloons in three southernmost provinces (Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat) and four districts in Songkhla province, coinciding with 62nd anniversary of founding of Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN), main militant separatist group. Plenary session of dialogue between Thai govt and BRN scheduled for 31 Mar-2 Apr in Kuala Lumpur.
Court released several political activists under strict conditions, while insecurity persisted in deep south amid spate of IED attacks and deadly encounters between military and security forces. Similar to last month, Feb saw no anti-govt protests. Thai Criminal Court 9 Feb agreed to temporarily release political activists Jatupat “Pai Dao Din” Boonpathararaksa and Panupong “Mike Rayong” Jadnok held on multiple charges, including lèse-majesté. Activist Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak, also charged with lèse-majesté, received bail on 24 Feb to continue his university studies; their release is conditional on abstaining from political activities, observing curfew, and wearing ankle monitors. Seksakol Atthawong, vice minister attached to PM’s Office, 17 Feb led group of royalists to submit petition allegedly carrying 1.2mn signatures to interior ministry to expel Amnesty International from country, accusing NGO of interfering with internal affairs and threatening national security. Minister of Digital Economy and Society Chaiwut Thanakamanusorn next day said his ministry is considering introducing single internet gateway, ostensibly to protect Thais from online crime; move could give authorities tighter grip on access to information inside country. In deep south, insecurity persisted with several IED attacks. In Songhkla province, security forces 3 Feb killed three militants attempting to break through perimeter around Koran learning centre at Khok Khet mosque, Ban-na sub-district, Chana district; IED same day detonated near railway bridge 5km from mosque, wounding villager; another IED 4 Feb exploded in same area, wounding two police officers. In Bangnang Sata district, Yala province, unidentified gunmen 10 Feb wounded Muslim man; IED same day exploded at Bang La dam power plant, wounding Muslim security guard. IED 18 Feb targeted two police vehicles in Raman district, with officers suffering no serious wounds. IED at railway crossing 23 Feb wounded two police officers in Muang district, Yala. In Pattani province, unidentified gunmen on motorcycles 18 Feb shot dead assistant village headman in Talor Kraithong subdistrict, Mai Kaen district; gunmen 21 Feb shot and killed former assistant village chief in Nong Chik district, Pattani.
Political parties continued to prepare for looming election, while talks recommenced between govt and separatist group Barisan Revolusi Nasional after almost two-year hiatus. Ruling Palan Pracharat Party faced several challenges in Jan. Two MPs 17 Jan resigned and former MPs Uttama Savanayana and Sontirat Sontijirawong 19 Jan formed new Sang Anakot Thai party, with splintering indicating weakening of PM Prayut Chan-o-cha’s parliamentary majority. Ruling party 20 Jan also expelled Sec Gen Thammanat Prompao and 20 other MPs. Meanwhile, former PM Thaksin Shinawatra 4 Jan vowed to return to Thailand during 2022, potentially signalling optimistic outlook for main opposition Pheu Thai Party in general election likely going ahead this year. Month saw no anti-govt rallies in one of quietest months since commencement of pro-democracy protests in early 2020, likely due to jailing of protest leaders, end-of-year break and coronavirus concerns. Judges 13 Jan extended bail of student protest leaders Panusaya “Rung” Sithijirawattanakul and Benja Apa on condition they refrain from participating in protests; other leaders remain in jail. In deep south, insurgents conducted several attacks during Jan. More than ten insurgents 3 Jan attacked Ranger Base 4513 in Ra-ngae district, Narathiwat province, killing one ranger and injuring two. In Narathiwat province, unidentified attackers night of 28 Jan set off 13 small explosives in Yala town, injuring one. Ranger truck 7 Jan struck IED in Nong Chik district, Pattani province, injuring five. Malaysian authorities 13 Jan repatriated three suspected Thai Malay insurgents connected to Runda Kumpulan Kecil group previously arrested in Malaysia after fleeing across border in first such extradition in approximately 25 years. In first dialogue since March 2020, Thai govt and Barisan Revolusi Nasional separatist group 11-12 Jan held preliminary talks over conflict in deep south in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, facilitated by Malaysia’s former federal police chief and observed by delegates from UK and Norway; talks agreed upon three-point framework for future negotiations centred on violence reduction, public participation and political solutions, set to be facilitated by working groups.
Small-scale anti-govt protests continued in capital Bangkok, while insecurity persisted in deep south, which saw series of bomb attacks. In capital Bangkok, police 6 Dec arrested some 36 protesters camped in front of Government House, protesting govt’s planned industrial estate development in Songkhla province’s Chana district. Small, silent vigils, dubbed “Stand Against Imprisonment”, continued to be staged outside courts in Bangkok two or three times per week, to demand bail for anti-govt protest leaders. Small group of activists 7 Dec gathered in Bangkok to call for repeal of lèse-majesté law. Anti-govt protest group Taluh Fah next day organised “car mob” to call for release of jailed pro-democracy protest leaders and show solidarity with anti-industrial estate protesters. Larger-scale protest 12 Dec saw demonstrators gather in capital to demand abolition of lèse-majesté law; at main protest site Ratchaprasong Intersection, police scuffled with crowd; although anti-govt protests have decreased significantly in scale and frequency since their 2020 peak, rally demonstrated both intent and capacity to continue. In deep south, in Narathiwat province, Islamic insurgent group Runda Kumpulan Kecil (RKK) 6 Dec exchanged fire with soldiers of 49th Ranger Regiment in forest near Srisakorn district, killing civilian and RKK leader. Vehicle carrying six officers of Budo Mountain National Park Protection Unit same day drove over roadside bomb in Marue Botok subdistrict; no serious injuries reported. Bomb 11 Dec exploded in Rueso district close to two monks and two rangers. Bomb 14 Dec exploded on road in Su-ngai Padi district, damaging six-vehicle convoy carrying rangers, with no casualties reported. In Songkhla province, security forces 8 Dec clashed with RKK militants in Tae Pha district, with no known casualties. In Pattani province, bomb on train tracks 13 Dec damaged train in Khok Pho district, injuring one passenger and two railway staff. At least 1,000 refugees 17 Dec reportedly crossed into Thailand following fighting in Myanmar’s Kayin State; Thai authorities 19 Dec sent over 600 refugees back across border (see Myanmar). Meanwhile, all political parties continued to prepare for 2022 election despite PM Prayut Chan-o-cha denying possibility of early election several times throughout month.
Despite Constitutional Court setting new precedent for prosecuting anti-monarchy protesters, large anti-govt rally held in capital Bangkok; violence continued in deep south. In unprecedented hearing, Constitutional Court 10 Nov ruled that prominent pro-democracy protest leaders Panupong “Mike” Jadnok, Panusaya “Rung” Sithijirawattanakul, and lawyer Anon Nampa had through their speeches “aimed to overthrow the constitutional monarchy” with calls for monarchical reform deemed tantamount to treason; local rights groups expressed fear of precedent to target advocates for reform, including opposition legislators. Redem group (formerly Free Youth) 14 Nov held large rally at Pathumwan Intersection in Bangkok calling for curbs to power of monarchy and reform of lèse-majesté law; protesters marched to German embassy, due to king’s frequent visits to country. Riot police attempted to block route and fired rounds into protesters marching past Police General Hospital, injuring three; police denied allegations of using live rounds. Meanwhile, ruling Palang Pracharat Party 3 Nov suspended three MPs, including Chief Whip Wirach Ratanasate, for alleged corruption; decision comes amid internal party shifts and preparations for possible early election. Parliament 16 Nov rejected proposed rewrite of 2017 constitution brought forward by civil society group “Re-solution” that included provision to abolish appointed Senate. In deep south, IED 1 Nov exploded on Ban Taneva Puyo route of Raman district, Yala province, injuring three police officers. In Pattani province, unknown assailants 9 Nov threw explosive at sub-district protection officers' outpost in Sakho Bon, Mayo district, with no injuries reported. In Narathiwat province, police 16 Nov detained suspect in Rue So district in connection with incident of passing motorcyclist shooting at police vehicle; suspect was found with four rifles, with domestic news agencies reporting connections to known insurgents.
Protests continued in capital Bangkok, while clashes between security forces and insurgents intensified in deep south. Rallies calling for PM Prayuth Chan-ocha’s resignation and clashes with police in Din Daeng area in Bangkok continued almost nightly in first half of Oct. Police 4 Oct arrested 26 protesters in Din Daeng for violating emergency decree. Unknown shooter 6 Oct shot and seriously wounded riot policeman at Din Daeng housing project during police search for “rioters”. Police 11 Oct arrested two youths throwing small improvised bombs at police kiosk at Asoke-Din Daeng intersection. Fifteen-year-old boy, who was shot 16 Aug by unknown assailant outside Din Daeng police station, died 28 Oct; first protester killed since anti-govt rallies resumed in 2020. Thousands 31 Oct gathered in central Bangkok to demand repeal of lèse-majesté law in largest protests in months. Former Future Forward Party leader and current Progressive Movement leader Thanathorn Jungrungruangkit 12 Oct reported to police to answer lèse-majesté charges, Computer Crimes Act violations and defamation; charges relate to earlier comments he made in 2021 about how firm Siam Bioscience, owned by Thai king, won contract to manufacture AstraZeneca vaccine. Amid growing speculation of plans for early election, all major parties save Pheu Thai Party named their PM candidates by 7 Oct; PM Prayuth 12 Oct however said he was not contemplating parliament dissolution or cabinet reshuffle. In deep south, late Sept firefight in Bacho district, Narathiwat province, that killed police officer and militant prompted two-week security operation in search of insurgents; clashes in province overnight 2-3, 7 and 13 Oct left army lieutenant and total of six insurgents dead before authorities 15 Oct announced end of operation. Elsewhere in Narathiwat, unidentified gunmen 3 Oct ambushed train bound for Raman district, leaving no casualties; IED 4 Oct exploded in Sungai Padi district; IED 10 Oct exploded in Bacho district, damaging police vehicle and wounding civilian. In Bannang Sata district, Yala province, IED 3 Oct wounded two rangers. Former village headman also shot dead in Pattani’s Kapho district 29 Oct.
PM Prayuth Chan-ocha and govt officials saw off no-confidence vote, while series of protests rocked capital Bangkok, leading to hundreds of arrests. In third such move, opposition 31 Aug-4 Sept challenged PM Prayuth Chan-ocha and five cabinet officials in parliamentary censure debate over issues including pandemic mismanagement and alleged corruption; lawmakers 4 Sept voted to reject no-confidence motion. In Bangkok, anti-govt protests continued throughout Sept with more than 600 arrested since July. Members of Red Shirts movement 2 Sept protested at Asoke intersection, calling for Prayuth’s resignation. United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration and Thalufah group 3 Sept held mass demonstration in Rachaprasong area ahead of no-confidence vote, which thousands attended; Free Youth movement 4 Sept led march through commercial centre ending at Pratunam intersection and hanging banner reading “Reform of Monarchy”. Additional rallies 6, 7 Sept held at Asoke; rallies planned on 8 Sept however called off, citing pending arrest warrants for leaders. Thalugas protesters 6 Sept clashed with police in Din Daeng district. Police next day arrested 18 protesters for damaging state property and protests same day continued amid further clashes with police. Also on 7 Sept, Ramkhamhaeng for Democracy demonstrators protested at Government House and Thalufah protesters rallied at Democracy Monument. Anti-govt protesters 19 Sept gathered at Asoke intersection on anniversary of 2006 coup that ousted then-PM Thaksin Shinawatra; protestors later proceeded to Democracy Monument in mobile rally of over 1,500 vehicles. Six police booths in Bangkok were found vandalised 23 Sept, including four torched. Parliament 10 Sept voted to approve constitutional amendment to adopt two-ballot election system, one for constituency candidate and one for the party list. Meanwhile, in deep south, unidentified gunmen 6 Sept killed Muslim man in Cho Airong district, Narathiwat province. Unidentified attackers 15 Sept attacked two Muslim men in Ruesoh district, Narathiwat province, killing one and wounding another. Drive-by grenade attack at security booth in Panare district, Pattani province, killed one ranger; paramilitary ranger died following grenade attack on his post in Pattani’s Panare district 22 Sept. IED attack 28 Sept killed two police officers and wounded four in Chanae district, Narathiwat province.
Regular and large-scale anti-govt protests resumed in capital Bangkok, leading to clashes with police, while violence continued in deep south. Hundreds of anti-govt protesters 1 Aug demonstrated in Bangkok, demanding resignation of PM Prayuth Chan-ocha; protesters launched projectiles at police, injuring 13 officers, and police responded with water cannons, rubber bullets and tear gas, arresting 11 protesters. Over 1,000 anti-govt protesters 7 Aug clashed with police near Victory Monument en route to Government House; police used water cannons, tear gas and rubber bullets against demonstrators, leaving at least two civilians and three police officers injured. Protesters 10 Aug gathered for rally and clashed with police in Din Daeng district; police responded with tear gas and rubber bullets, arresting at least 48 people. Near-daily clashes continued 11-19 Aug in Din Daeng. During protest at Government House, 15-year-old protester was shot 16 Aug; police denied using live ammunition. Protesters 20 Aug marched to Swiss, U.S. and Chinese embassies to air grievances against govt. Police 24 Aug arrested seven men in Nakhon Pathom province with 18 small improvised “ping pong” bombs, allegedly for use in upcoming anti-govt rally. Meanwhile, media outlets and human rights lawyers 2 Aug petitioned Civil Court to void PM Prayuth’s late-July order to censor online criticism of govt’s COVID-19 response; court 6 Aug ruled emergency decree order was unconstitutional, forcing Prayuth 10 Aug to rescind order. Opposition 16 Aug filed no-confidence motions against PM and five other ministers, chiefly triggered by alleged mismanagement of pandemic. Violence continued in deep south. Security forces 2 Aug killed insurgent in Nong Chik district, Pattani province. At least 15 militants next day attacked ranger camp on Kolok River, (Tak Bai district, Narathiwat province) on Thailand-Malaysia border, killing one ranger and injuring four others. Pipe bomb 23 Aug injured one soldier in Myang district, Yala province. Militants 28 Aug ambushed cargo train in Rangae district, Narathiwat. Bomb same day in Muang district, Yala province, wounded local official.
Pro-democracy activists held large-scale rally in capital Bangkok, while govt faced criticism for insufficient vaccine supplies as COVID-19 cases reached record highs. Over 1,000 protesters 18 July assembled in Bangkok to oppose govt’s handling of COVID-19 pandemic; as protesters attempted to reach Government House, security forces responded with water cannons, rubber bullets and tear gas; eight police officers and unknown number of demonstrators were injured. Police arrested at least 16 demonstrators. As daily COVID-19 infection rates hit record high daily tallies during month, govt faced growing public criticism for tardy, insufficient and non-transparent efforts to secure effective vaccines; Siam Bioscience, contracted by govt to produce AstraZeneca vaccine, 14 July advised public health ministry that 61mn doses scheduled for delivery by 31 Dec would be delayed until May 2022. Leaked document 18 July showed that in Sept 2020 govt ordered only six million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine per month, rather than ten million previously announced by health minister. Authorities continued to silence critics. Following pro forma apologies, state-backed Govt Pharmaceutical Organisation 14 July registered defamation complaints against two critics of govt’s slow response to pandemic; former ruling party MP 21 July asked police to investigate comments critical of govt made by over 20 celebrities; 18-year-old rapper next day reported to police to answer defamation charges related to tweets critical of PM Prayuth. Six professional media associations 28 July issued joint statement condemning govt use of emergency decree to curb free speech. Violence continued in deep south. Improvised bomb 6 July killed one soldier and wounded three more in Chana district, Songkhla province. IED attack and ambush 19 July wounded five police officers in Sai Buri district, Pattani province.
Parliament considered series of constitutional amendments as protesters commemorated end of absolute monarchy in 1932; violence persisted in deep south. Parliament 22-24 June reopened debate on 13 draft constitutional amendment bills, one of which involves stripping appointed senate of power to participate in PM selection process. One bill 24 June passed first reading; bill proposes to raise number of constituency MPs and to restore simpler method for selecting party-list MPs. Parliamentary Legal Advisory Committee President Dr. Sukit Atthopakorn 19 June rejected one draft amendment calling for establishment of Constitution Drafting Assembly, said it contradicted Constitutional Court ruling that referendum would be required before drafting assembly could be formed. Meanwhile, thousands of pro-democracy protesters 24 June commemorated anniversary of 1932 coup, staging rallies at Government House, parliament, Democracy Monument and other locations in capital Bangkok; coup had brought end to absolute monarchy. After late May establishment of subcommittees to supervise and enforce social media laws, digital economy and society ministry 2 June announced court order for Facebook and internet service providers which blocks or removes eight accounts that govt has accused of spreading “fake news”; said accounts had been critical of govt and monarchy. Criminal Court 1 June granted bail to pro-democracy protest leaders Anon Nampa and Panupong “Mike” Jadnok, as well as activist Chukiat “Justin” Saengwong, who face multiple charges including lèse-majesté, sedition and illegal assembly. In the deep south, violence continued. Combined police-military force 21 June raided resort in Yaring district, Pattani province, after receiving reports that small number of insurgents were hiding there; operation left two gunmen dead and injured bystander.
Protesters held small-scale pro-democracy rallies and maintained online activism, while sporadic violence continued in deep south. Around 200 protesters with Restart Democracy (ReDem) group 2 May marched from Victory Monument to Criminal Court in capital Bangkok to protest no-bail imprisonments of protest leaders and others; protesters dispersed later same day but police clashed in evening with stragglers, firing rubber bullets; police arrested one of two ReDem leaders, Hathairat Kaewseekram, to whom Appeals Court 10 May granted bail. Core leader of Ratsadon pro-democracy group Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak 1 May transferred from prison to hospital after 46 days on hunger strike; authorities 11 May granted him bail. Authorities 6 May released on bail prominent protest leader Panusaya “Rung” Sithijirawattanakul who faces charges that include lèse-majesté and sedition. Resurgent COVID-19 cases throughout month saw anti-govt movement turn to social media platforms. Protesters 2 May established Facebook page entitled “Let’s Move Abroad”, which gained several hundred thousand followers; Digital Economy and Society Minister Chaiwut Thanakhamanusorn 4 May said his ministry was monitoring Facebook page. Violence in deep south continued. In Yala province, security forces 4 May clashed with suspected insurgents in Krong Pinang district as they attempted to arrest suspected militant, leaving one ranger and two insurgents dead. In Narathiwat province, ranger patrol 11 May clashed with suspected militants in Bacho district, arresting two and killing one. Authorities 18 May found that 28 assault rifles were missing from armoury in Muang district, Narathiwat.
Pro-democracy activists held protests throughout month on smaller scale, while violence continued in deep south. Pro-democracy protest movement continued activities throughout month in capital Bangkok and other cities, calling for release of jailed 22 protest leaders, amendment of lèse-majesté law and reform of monarchy; resurgent COVID-19 cases throughout month ensured turnout at protests remained in lower, double-digit figures. Leaderless rallies earlier in month descended into violent clashes between protesters and police. Two prominent protest leaders in detention remained on hunger strike; at least 83 people have been summoned by police on lèse-majesté charges since law was revived in Nov. Core leader of National United Front of Democracy Against Dictatorship Jatuporn Prompan 4 April launched group called “People United” at rally in Bangkok, seeking ouster of PM Prayuth Chan-ocha. Violence in deep south continued. In Pattani province, clash between militants and police 6 April killed Muslim religious leader in Khok Pho district; six assailants 12 April seized two Muslim assistant village chiefs before setting fire to road-repair work site in Thung Yang Daeng district; two cell towers, CCTV camera, tires and security post 13-14 April were set alight in Yarang and Thepa districts. In Bacho district, Narathiwat province, marine outpost 13 April was targeted by pipe bomb. Militants 22 April threw IED at defence volunteer outpost in Yi-ngo district, Narathiwat; in ensuing gun battle, police killed one militant and arrested two others. In Sai Buri district, Pattani, motorcycle-borne gunmen opened fire on pickup truck, forcing it off the road and setting it alight, killing driver and two passengers.
Anti-govt protests persisted as authorities arrested and charged activists under lèse-majesté law, and violence in deep south rose for second consecutive month, leaving several dead. In capital Bangkok, pro-democracy protest movement continued, with weekly rallies throughout month, calling for release of jailed protest leaders, amendment of lèse-majesté law and reform of monarchy. Protesters 1 March set ablaze police vehicle following march from Victory Monument in Bangkok. Around 1,000 protesters 6 March gathered outside of Criminal Court to reiterate demands; four smaller protests took place same evening. Several hundred protesters 13 March marched from Victory Monument to Government House. Over 1,000 protesters 20 March converged next to Grand Palace and clashed with police, leaving 13 police officers and at least 20 civilians injured. Over 3,000 protesters 24 March rallied peacefully at Bangkok’s Rachaprasong intersection. Court 8 March indicted 18 people for role in pro-democracy protests, using various charges including lèse-majesté, sedition and organising illegal gatherings; at least 72 people charged under lèse-majesté law since Nov. Police 28 March launched raid on protesters encamped outside Government House since 13 March; at least 99 people arrested. Meanwhile, Constitutional Court 11 March ruled that parliament has authority to amend constitution providing referendums are held both to approve reform effort and new constitution once drafted; opposition criticised ruling, citing lack of reference to referendum in constitution; parliament 17 March rejected amendment bill proposing constitution drafting committee that passed second reading in Feb. Violence in deep south rose again for second consecutive month, leaving three dead. In Narathiwat province, gunmen 10 March killed Malay-Muslim defence volunteer in Bacho district; 28 March killed assistant village headman in Bacho district. In Yala province, IED attack 19 March wounded eight defence volunteers in Muang district. In Pattani province, insurgents 19 March ambushed team of rangers patrolling in Thung Yang Daeng district; motorcycle-borne gunmen 20 March killed Malay-Muslim defence volunteer in Khok Pho district. Armed group Barisan Revolusi Nasional 13 March criticised govt’s economic development programs for southernmost provinces as insincere and exploitative. Supreme Court 3 March sentenced six Malay-Muslim men to death for bombings in Pattani in 2016.
Protest movement calling for constitutional reform resumed in capital Bangkok while violence returned in deep south after quiet month. Criminal court 9 Feb imprisoned four protest leaders for violation of lèse-majesté law; ruling came day after panel of UN human rights experts expressed “grave concerns” over recent lèse-majesté charges and sentences. In Bangkok, protesters resumed rallies throughout month, calling for release of four jailed protest leaders, amendment of lèse-majesté law and reform of monarchy. Over 1,000 protesters 10 Feb gathered at Pathumwan intersection and scuffled with police; hundreds 13 Feb gathered at Democracy Monument; protesters later same day marched toward Grand Palace and clashed with riot police; separate group of pro-democracy protesters same day met at Nang Loeng police station, where police fired warning shots and media reported 23 protestors and 20 police officers injured during incident and 11 people arrested. Rally of several hundred 19 Feb took place near parliament. Police 28 Feb fired tear gas, water cannons and rubber bullets in clashes with pro-democracy protesters in Bangkok; incident left 23 policemen and ten protesters injured, and police arrested 22 people. Meanwhile, lawmakers 9 Feb agreed that Constitutional Court should rule on legality of proposed constitutional amendments aimed at setting up charter drafting committee; opposition sees recourse to court as move to derail reform efforts; two proposed amendment bills 25 Feb passed second reading. Deep south witnessed uptick in violence after calmer Jan. In Narathiwat province, arsonists 1 Feb set fire to two cell signal towers before targeting police officers responding to fire with IED, wounding five in Si Sakhon district; gunmen 14 Feb fired shots at guard post outside police station in Bacho district. In Pattani province, grenade 13 Feb exploded in parking lot of block of police apartments; militants 16 Feb fired two grenades at Marine outpost in Mai Khen district; gunmen 20 Feb shot and killed Malay-Muslim defence volunteer in Khok Po district. In first publicly acknowledged dialogue in over a year, govt representatives 3 Feb engaged with armed group Barisan Revolusi Nasional to discuss “how to handle peace talks during the COVID-19 time”.
Amid small-scale protests, authorities continued arrests of anti-govt supporters under lèse-majesté law. In effort to intimidate opponents and quash protest movement, govt resorted to law prohibiting criticism of monarchy: as of late Jan, at least 55 people had been summoned by police on lèse-majesté charges since law was revived in Nov – including at least 39 counts throughout Jan. Notably, Progressive Movement and former Future Forward Party leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit 18 Jan staged Facebook Live event questioning govt’s decision to grant license to produce COVID-19 vaccine solely to company Siam Bioscience owned by Crown Property Bureau; in response, PM Prayuth Chan-ocha next day said he would prosecute those who “distorted” information about country’s vaccine strategy and Digital Economy and Society Ministry 20 Jan filed lawsuit against Thanathorn, accusing him of defaming monarchy. Protest leader Parit Chiwarak 20 Jan answered police summons to hear lèse-majesté charges against him and some of his fellow leaders. Meanwhile, only 11 members of 21-member govt-backed reconciliation committee, proposed by parliament in Oct with view to defusing political tensions, 18 Jan attended first meeting; opposition parties and pro-reform groups spurned initiative as “insincere”. Small groups of protesters continued to gather throughout month, most dispersed by police: We Volunteer (WeVo) group 16 Jan staged small protest at Victory Monument in capital Bangkok; police rapidly and forcibly broke up protest and arrested six people; later same day, about ten protesters gathered at Sam Yan Mitrtown shopping mall to demand release of those arrested. After protest ended, assailants on motorcycle hurled small IED outside mall, injuring two police officers, one reporter and one bystander. Member of WeVo 18 Jan filed complaint with police stating that members of Internal Security Operations Command 16 Jan had abducted him after Victory Monument protest; police 20 Jan summoned him to face charges of submitting false police report.
Authorities reactivated lèse-majesté law prohibiting criticism of monarchy in crackdown against anti-govt demonstrators; sporadic violence continued in deep south. Local human rights organisation Thai Lawyers for Human Rights confirmed that as of 17 Dec at least 33 people, including one minor, were charged with lèse-majesté, suggesting renewed use of dormant law after three-year hiatus as means of cracking down on dissenters. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet 18 Dec condemned use of law, particularly against minors. In capital Bangkok, thousands of anti-govt protesters continued to gather throughout month. Following Constitutional Court decision 2 Dec that unanimously cleared PM Prayuth Chan-ocha of any conflict of interest with respect to his use of govt-owned house on 1st Infantry Regiment base, protesters seized on issue as another example of double-standard justice, with some 5,000 rallying at Lad Phrao junction that evening. Protesters 10 Dec rallied at Democracy Monument, 14 October 1973 Memorial, and UN Bangkok Headquarters; small IED bomb same day exploded well in advance of rally at 14 October 1973 Memorial, causing minor damage to structure; protest leader Anon Nampa 14 Dec told reporters that protesters would take break for remainder of year and resume rallies in 2021. Late 31 Dec, small pipe detonated in Bangkok where pro-democracy activists were selling prawns to help farmers affected by COVID-19 pandemic; four people suffered minor injuries. Group of nine U.S. senators 3 Dec introduced resolution in support of Thailand’s pro-democracy movement, urging govt to “immediately and unconditionally release political activists and refrain from harassing, intimidating, or persecuting those engaged in peaceful protests”; FM Don Pramudwinai 17 Dec said in response that resolution was “work of lobbyists”. In deep south, two motorcycle gunmen, dressed as women, 8 Dec shot and killed police officer in Khok Pho district, Pattani province; several gunmen 11 Dec shot and killed Muslim assistant village headman at his home in Raman district, Yala province. Govt 20 Dec held provincial elections in first test of democracy since 2019 general elections, which drew accusations of manipulation.
Mass anti-govt protests continued with dozens injured as parliament rejected proposals for substantive constitutional change. House Speaker Chuan Leekpai 3 Nov said he had approached three former PMs to establish reconciliation committee, protest leaders next day dismissed committee as “farce”. In capital Bangkok, thousands of anti-govt protestors 8-18 Nov gathered in different locations, while hundreds of yellow-shirt royalists throughout month mobilised in demonstrations reportedly organised by interior ministry. As parliament 17 Nov debated seven bills on constitutional amendments, submitted separately by coalition govt, opposition MPs and civic group Internet Law Reform Dialogue, thousands of anti-govt protesters descended on parliament and clashed with police and royalist counter-demonstrators in most violent day of protests since July; dozens injured, including at least six who suffered gunshot wounds. Lawmakers 18 Nov rejected draft amendments favoured by protesters and instead approved two motions paving way for discussions on limited constitutional changes; parliamentary committee due to scrutinise two bills before second reading scheduled for Jan. PM Prayuth 19 Nov said “all laws” would be brought to bear against protesters, raising possibility of activation of dormant lèse-majesté law. Protest 25 Nov originally planned for Crown Property Bureau shifted to Siam Commercial Bank to highlight palace finances; large protests took place 27, 28 and 29 Nov at Lad Phrao, Bangna and 11th Infantry Regiment, respectively. Police 24 Nov summoned 12 protest leaders to face charges under lèse-majesté law. In deep south, gunmen 3 Nov shot and wounded senior navy officer in Bacho district, Narathiwat; suspected insurgents 6 Nov killed Muslim rubber grower in Sri Sakhon district in Narathiwat; IED same day targeting teacher-protection unit exploded in Rangae district in Narathiwat; IED 15 Nov targeted rangers in Reusoh district in Narathiwat; rangers 17 Nov clashed with at least five suspected insurgents in Sai Buri district, Pattani. Motorcycle-borne gunmen 24 Nov shot and wounded man in Sai Buri district, and body of man shot to death discovered in coconut plantation in Nong Chik district, Pattani; motorcycle gunmen same day shot and wounded soldier in Sai Buri.
Amid mass pro-democracy protests, authorities used emergency decree to crackdown on activists and low-level violence persisted in deep south. Following small-scale protests early Oct in capital Bangkok and provincial capitals, mass protest 14 Oct drew tens of thousands at Bangkok’s Democracy Monument before marching to Government House demanding resignation of PM Prayuth and his govt as well as new constitution and reform of monarchy. Royal motorcade of Queen Suthida and Prince Dipangkorn same day passed through protest area, prompting jeers from protesters. Citing motorcade incident, govt 15 Oct imposed “serious state of emergency”, prohibiting gatherings of over four people and broadening powers of arrest and censorship; police same day cleared protesters from around Government House. In defiance of emergency decree, however, anti-govt protests escalated for eight consecutive days: thousands 15 Oct gathered at Bangkok’s Rachaprasong intersection; police next day cracked down on demonstrators at Bangkok’s Pathumwan district; tens of thousands 17-19 Oct assembled in capital and in at least twenty provinces. Police 16-20 Oct arrested three activists for crime of threatening royal family. PM Prayuth 21 Oct said govt was willing to lift state of emergency if there was no further violence; thousands same day gathered at Victory Monument and marched through police barricades to Government House; protesters dispersed after giving Prayuth three-day deadline to resign. Royal Gazette 22 Oct said state of emergency was lifted. Extraordinary parliamentary session 26-27 Oct resulted in govt approval of proposed reconciliation committee but govt showed no signs of meeting protesters’ demands. Tens of thousands 26 Oct marched to German embassy in Bangkok demanding that Berlin determine if King Maha Vajiralongkorn violated German law by exercising political power while residing in Bavaria; German govt 28 Oct reportedly concluded no violation so far. Hundreds of royalists 27 Oct rallied at Lumpini Park. In deep south, suspected insurgents 9 Oct ambushed teacher protection team in Sai Buri district, Pattani province, killing one police and injuring two others; IED detonation in same area same day killed one ranger and wounded three others; roadside IED 12 Oct damaged armoured pick-up at Southern Border Provinces Administration Centre in Si Sakhon district, Narathiwat province.
Protests continued to grow in size as demonstrators staged largest pro-democracy rally since 2014 military coup; Muslim leaders proposed small measures to address local demands in deep south. Amid near-daily small-scale demonstrations mainly in capital Bangkok, police 1 Sept arrested activist and president of Student Union of Thailand, Jutatip Sirikhan, who was granted bail same day. Police 3 Sept arrested protest leaders Anon Nampa and Panupong Jadnok after Bangkok Criminal Court ruled they had breached their Aug bail terms by continuing to take part in protests, both released 7 Sept after police withdrew request to detain them; Constitutional Court 16 Sept accepted complaint accusing Anon, Panupong and Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul of attempting to overthrow govt. Also in Bangkok, on field adjacent to Grand Palace, activist group United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration 19 Sept organised largest pro-democracy rally since 2014 coup with more than 30,000 demanding dissolution of parliament, new constitution, end to harassment of activists and reform of monarchy. Demonstrators next morning installed plaque commemorating transition from absolute monarchy to democracy and attempted to deliver letter to king’s Privy Council demanding action on ten-point manifesto to reform monarchy. After police prevented protesters from reaching Privy Council offices, they handed letter to senior police officer. Protest organiser Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak 20 Sept called for general strike on 14 Oct, anniversary of 1973 student uprising. Palace 15 Sept announced that king had approved appointment, effective 30 Sept, of army chief General Apirat Kongsompong and head of corrections department Police Colonel Narat Sawettanan as deputies to Lord Chamberlain of Royal Household. Parliament 24 Sept postponed vote on constitutional amendments, instead voted to form another committee to consider charter change. In deep south, security forces 6 Sept killed two suspected insurgents in Thepa district, Songkhla province. Head of Thai delegation in peace negotiations with insurgents 13 Sept met with Muslim leaders in Nong Chik, Pattani, who proposed making Friday – Islam’s holy day – a public holiday, posting village signs in Thai, English and Malay and declaring latter as an official language in southern provinces.
Protests continued amid growing calls for constitutional reform. In capital Bangkok, human rights lawyer Anon Nampa 3 Aug organised small demonstration at Democracy Monument, where in taboo-breaking speech he called for reform of monarchy; in response, senior govt official 5 Aug filed lèse-majesté complaint against Anon, and police 7 Aug arrested him and activist Panupong Jadnok for involvement in 18 July rally, releasing both on bail 9 Aug. More than 5,000 gathered 10 Aug at Thammasat University in Pathum Thani province, demanding dissolution of parliament, new constitution and end to harassment of govt critics; at end of rally, student activist Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul unveiled list of ten demands aimed at reforming monarchy, including revoking lèse-majesté law and prohibiting king from endorsing coups. PM Prayuth Chan-ocha 11 Aug said protesters had gone “too far”. Prayuth 13 Aug called on Thai citizens to reject efforts to divide them. Police 14 Aug arrested protest organiser Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak in Nonthaburi province, released him on bail following day. Activist group Free People 16 Aug organised largest pro-democracy rally since 2014 coup as some 20,000 gathered at Democracy Monument. Police 19-20 Aug arrested nine activists including Anon, all released on bail 20 Aug. Authorities 26 Aug arrested two Free Youth Movement leaders and charged them with sedition among other crimes before releasing them on bail. Anti-govt protesters gathered overnight at 14 October Monument 27-28 Aug; protesters scuffled briefly with police. Prayuth 4 Aug said govt would propose constitutional amendments to parliament but reneged on his promise 18 Aug; Army Chief General Apirat Kongsompong 19 Aug said he had no objection to amending constitution. Facebook 24 Aug complied with govt request to block access in Thailand to Royalist Marketplace, a satirical page with more than one million members; Facebook said it would challenge legality of govt order. Cabinet 25 Aug approved extension of COVID-19 emergency decree for one month until 30 Sep. In deep south, suspected insurgent bombings 13 Aug killed two rangers in Pattani and Narathiwat provinces; security forces 14-16 Aug killed seven suspected insurgents in Pattani province.
Protesters staged one of largest pro-democracy demonstrations since 2014 military coup while insurgents continued attacks against security forces in deep south. In capital Bangkok, activist group Free Youth and Thai Student Union 18 July organised demonstration at Democracy Monument with estimated 2,500 people demanding dissolution of parliament, new constitution and end to harassment of govt critics; organisers said they would intensify rallies if govt failed to respond by 1 Aug. Students in Chiang Mai and in Ubon Ratchathani 19 July gathered, echoing Bangkok demonstration’s demands; about 200 protesters 20 July also demonstrated outside army headquarters in Bangkok accusing military of inappropriate spending and political interference, reportedly in response to army’s former spokeswoman criticism of anti-govt protesters. PM Prayuth Chan-ocha 21 July said parliament could address protesters’ demands. Smaller pro-democracy protests 25 July took place in several provincial capitals; hundreds of protesters next day returned to Democracy Monument and continued demonstrations 26-30 July. In deep south, security forces 3 July raided house in Panare, Pattani, killing defence volunteer and suspected insurgent; that night, insurgents attacked ranger base in Sungai Padi, Narathiwat, with no casualties; next morning, bomb exploded near scene of previous night’s attack, with no casualties. Insurgents 8 July reportedly shot and killed ranger volunteer in Raman, Yala; 14-15 July reportedly detonated two bombs targeting security forces which killed one ranger and injured six rangers and four civilians in Mae Lan and Panare, Pattani. Four senior cabinet members including finance minister 9 July quit ruling Palang Pracharat Party and 16 July resigned from cabinet along with deputy PM Somkid Jatusripitak; PM same day said he would reshuffle cabinet by end of Aug. PM and Army Chief General Apirat Kongsompong 10 July met U.S. army chief James McConville in Bangkok, where Apirat and McConville signed “Strategic Vision” pact; U.S. embassy same day said meeting focused on “modernisation, interoperability, joint training and doctrine”.
Insurgent violence persisted in south and abduction of pro-democracy activist in exile sparked outrage and small-scale protests. In deep south, security forces 16 June exchanged fire with suspected insurgents in Saiburi district, Pattani; next day shot and killed suspected insurgent after he allegedly opened fire on them at checkpoint in Muang district, Pattani. Head of Thai delegation in Malaysia-brokered peace negotiations 19 June expressed his intention to restart talks with main insurgent group Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN) in July or August. In two separate attacks, unidentified gunmen 22 June shot and killed village official and timber worker in Pattani and Yala provinces. In Cambodian capital Phnom Penh, unidentified gunmen 4 June abducted exiled Thai pro-democracy activist Wanchalerm Satsakit, who had fled Thailand after 2014 military coup; Wanchalerm’s disappearance 15 June sparked series of small-scale protests in capital Bangkok while prompting calls on social media to repeal article 112 of country’s criminal code under which insulting monarchy is punishable by up to 15 years in prison; PM Prayuth Chan-ocha same day warned activists that such criticism could damage their job prospects. To mark anniversary of 1932 coup that ended absolute monarchy, pro-democracy activists 24 June staged peaceful commemorations across country. Security officials 23 June attempted to link discovery of small-arms cache in Mae Sot, Tak province, on Myanmar border, to alleged anti-government plot to coincide with 1932 coup anniversary; in fact, arms were destined for rebels in Myanmar.
Series of pro-democracy activities commemorating deadly military crackdown of 2010 Red Shirt protests took place, while insurgent violence in deep south resumed at low intensity. Main insurgent group Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN)1 May condemned govt’s late April deadly security operation which killed three insurgents and breached group’s unilateral ceasefire; BRN denied allegations that slain insurgent suspects were planning attacks and called on govt to “reciprocate” ceasefire. Suspected insurgents 3 May opened fire on two rangers riding motorcycle, killing one in Saiburi district, Pattani. Amid easing of COVID-19 lockdown, pro-democracy activists launched protests commemorating military crackdown of 2010 Red Shirt movement, which left 99 dead. In capital Bangkok, anonymous group night of 10 May launched campaign projecting slogan “#SeekTheTruth” on several Bangkok landmarks; new Progressive Movement, founded by Thanathorn Jungrungruangkit, disqualified MP and former leader of Future Forward Party, next day claimed credit for projections, decrying lack of accountability for loss of life at hands of army ten years ago. Several dozen Red Shirts 13 May attended memorial in Bangkok of pro-Red Shirt military official killed during 2010 protests, police arrested one for organising protest despite COVID-19 emergency decree; Red Shirt leaders and activists 19 May also held commemoration ceremonies in Bangkok and Chiang Mai city; and student and other activists 22 May gathered in Bangkok to mark sixth anniversary of 2014 military coup, police arrested two demonstrators for violating emergency decree. Govt 26 May extended state of emergency until 30 June; opposition and human rights activists denounced move as means to curb protests and stifle dissent, main opposition party Pheu Thai described it as “a consolidation of power”. Royal Gazette 4 May announced that former head of Constitutional Court, Dr Nurak Marpraneet, had been appointed to Privy Council; in previous role, Nurak oversaw removal of three PMs (including Yingluck Shinawatra in 2014), dissolution of 29 political parties (including most recently of the Future Forward Party), and ruling to nullify 2014 elections.
In response to COVID-19, main southern insurgent group Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN) announced unilateral ceasefire, halting attacks in deep south, while govt continued security operations. BRN 3 April announced unilateral, open-ended cessation of “all activities” to allow healthcare agencies and other organisations to work unimpeded, move resulted in no evident insurgent attacks throughout April; govt had not reciprocated by end of month. Security forces 30 April killed three BRN militants in raid in Nong Chik, Pattani; one police officer wounded in gun battle. BRN posted video 30 April decrying continued Thai govt security operations. In face of COVID-19, govt 12-15 April cancelled Thai new year (Songkran) holiday; tens of thousands of newly unemployed people had however already left Bangkok following closure of malls, restaurants, and other business from 22 March. By mid-April, some seven million Thais were unemployed, Thai Chamber of Commerce said number could reach ten million in next two months. Govt 8 April announced program to provide relief payments of 5,000 baht ($153) per month to unemployed and others experiencing hardship, for three months; govt swiftly received 26mn applications, far outstripping the nine million envisioned. Hundreds whose claims were denied 14 April gathered at Finance Ministry, hurling angry insults at officials. PM Prayuth caused further anger when 15 April he announced that there were only funds for one month, next day he retracted statement, apologised for “miscommunicating”. Cabinet 28 April approved extension of state of emergency until 31 May.