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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.
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.
Student protests following Feb dissolution of opposition Future Forward Party (FFP) paused in the wake of concerns over COVID-19 spread, while Thai officials and Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN) representatives met for second round of formal peace dialogue on ending conflict in deep south. Hundreds of students 13 March marched, carrying signs critical of govt and calling for new constitution. Protesters have since halted political gatherings due to concerns about COVID-19. Election Commission 10 March announced filing of criminal charges against FFP party founder Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit for “applying to be an MP candidate knowing he was not qualified” based on his holding of shares in defunct fashion magazine when he ran in March 2019 general election. Former FFP executives Piyabutr Saengkanokkul and Pannika Wanich, and MP Pita Limjaroenrat, leader of Move Forward Party, 16 March answered five charges related to Dec 2019 protest, including conspiring to hold gathering without notifying authorities. Thai officials and BRN representatives 2-3 March met for second round of formal peace dialogue in Malaysia’s capital Kuala Lumpur. Violence however continued in deep south: insurgents 7 March killed one police officer, wounded two in Sri Sakhon district, Narathiwat; gunmen 8 March killed assistant village headman in Yarang district, Pattani; military operation against militants 17-18 March left three militants dead after gunfight broke out on border between Pattani and Yala provinces, renewed clashes 18-19 March killed one militant and one soldier. Meanwhile, militants 17 March wounded 30 in vehicle-borne IED attack in front of Southern Border Provinces Administration Center in Yala town.
Domestic political tensions continued with ban of opposition Future Forward Party (FFP) and controversies over role of military in commercial activities. Constitutional Court 21 Feb ruled that opposition party FFP illegally accepted loan from party founder Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit in violation of Political Parties Organic Law; court 21 Feb dissolved FFP, imposing 10-year ban from political activity for sixteen party executives, including Thanathorn and Secretary General Piyabutr Saengkanokkul, giving 60 days to remaining 65 MPs to join another party. University and high school students staged series of demonstrations on campuses and elsewhere to protest FFP dissolution and called for govt to step down. In Nakhon Ratchasima city, north east Thailand, non-commissioned army officer 8-9 Feb staged mass shooting, killing commanding officer, mother-in-law, soldier and 29 people, before 9 Feb being killed by police. Incident raised questions among observers about army’s professionalism and involvement in commercial activities; Army Chief General Apirat Kongsompong 11 Feb vowed to eliminate officers’ financial links with subordinates and transfer control of a range of profit-seeking enterprises, including golf courses and boxing venues, to Treasury Department; Thanathorn 16 Feb urged Gen Apirat to end military involvement in all commercial operations. Following Jan controversy over reported proxy voting during parliamentary vote on budget bill, Constitutional Court 7 Feb ruled 5-4 that parliament should conduct new vote on bill; budget passed 13 Feb. Incidents of violence continued in deep south with series of militant attacks. Motorcycle-borne gunmen 10 Feb killed Malay-Muslim in Muang district, in Yala; gunman 13 Feb killed Malay-Muslim man in Sungai Kolok district, in Narathiwat; small bomb 17 Feb exploded in front of school with no casualties in Nong Chik district, in Pattani; gunmen same day killed Malay-Muslim civilian enrolled in army-sponsored jobs project in drive-by shooting in Khok Pho district, in Pattani; security forces 22-23 Feb killed six militants and seized seven small arms and improvised explosive device rigged to motorcycle after gun battle in Cho Airong district, Narathiwat.
Thai officials and Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN) representatives met for first round of formal peace dialogue on ending conflict in deep south while domestic political tensions persisted. Constitutional Court 21 Jan dismissed case that opposition Future Forward Party (FFP) had attempted “to undermine the monarchy”; other cases against FFP still pending, including one over alleged illegal loan to FFP by party founder Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit with ruling expected in late Feb. Parliament 10 Jan passed 2020 budget; controversy over proxy voting by coalition MPs could derail budget as Constitutional Court 29 Jan accepted petition to rule on validity of budget vote. “Run to Oust Uncle” (Wing Lai Loong), anti-govt protest run, 12 Jan drew some 18,000 participants in Bangkok; another anti-govt protest scheduled for 2 Feb in Chiang Mai city, northern Thailand. In major development, Thai officials and BRN delegates 20 Jan met in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to announce start of formal dialogue process, with Malaysia resuming role as facilitator. Head of BRN delegation Anas Abdulrahman 21 Jan said both parties had agreed to framework and terms of reference for dialogue after months of negotiations; next meeting reportedly scheduled for 2-3 March. Violence however continued in deep south. Insurgents 12 Jan attacked outpost secured by defence volunteers in Sukhirin district, Narathiwat, one volunteer killed and seven wounded; following attack security forces exchanged gunfire with two insurgents near outpost, killing one insurgent. Gunman 18 Jan killed village headman in mosque in Saiburi district, Pattani. Motorcycle-borne gunmen 22 Jan killed off-duty Muslim ranger in Mayo district, Yala, five-year-old son wounded in attack.
Domestic political tensions increased as Electoral Commission (EC) recommended constitutional court dissolve opposition Future Forward Party (FFP), whose leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit stepped up calls for public protests, while militant attacks in deep south continued at relatively low level. Junta-appointed EC 11 Dec recommended constitutional court dissolve FFP for $6.3mn loan from Thanathorn to FFP during general election which it said violated law against parties accepting cash “from illegitimate sources”. Thanathorn 11 Dec called for supporters to take to streets in Bangkok in opposition to govt; several thousand people demonstrated next day in largest public protest since 2014 coup; Thanathorn pledged larger protests beginning Jan. Constitutional Court 25 Dec accepted EC request to rule on FFP loan case, as well as sedition case against Thanathorn; decisions expected 21 Jan. Violence continued in deep south. In Sungai Padi district, Narathiwat province, militants 27 Nov bombed section of railway track; no casualties. In Saiburi district, Pattani province, gunmen 1 Dec shot dead Muslim woman travelling with her child on motorcycle, and 12 Dec fired on ranger base, causing no casualties. In Thepha, Songkhla province, IED wounded five police 12 Dec. Paramilitary rangers mistakenly killed three civilians 16 Dec in Rangae district, Narathiwat; two rangers charged with murder 20 Dec. Benar News 2 Dec reported meeting between Thai officials and Barisan Revolusi Nasional in German capital, according to source from Malaysian team facilitating moribund peace dialogue between Bangkok and MARA Patani, who said Malaysia not informed of Berlin meeting and did not “recognize” it.
Large-scale militant attack in deep south indicated continued potency of Malay-Muslim insurgency despite steadily declining levels of violence over past years, while political tensions mounted as constitutional court disqualified opposition leader as MP. In deep south’s Yala province, insurgents attacked checkpoint in Lam Phaya, Muang district, killing fifteen including many Village Defence Volunteers. Killing represented highest death toll in single militant attack over past eighteen years, and prompted questions about transfer of security responsibilities from army troops to civilian militias with minimal training. PM Prayuth floated idea of curfews; army 11 Nov announced it would not impose curfews. Suspected militants 11 Nov killed elderly couple in Mae Lan district, Pattani province, also injuring two-year-old child. General Wanlop Rugsanaoh, new head of Thai Peace Dialogue Panel, and other panel members spoke to media 29 Nov, pledged to renew dialogue with Malay-Muslim militants that has been suspended since Feb 2019. In national politics, constitutional court 20 Nov disqualified Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, founder and leader of anti-junta Future Forward Party (FFP), as MP for failing to divest shares in media company before registering as candidate, in precedent that could potentially jeopardise standing of more than 50 MPs. Thanathorn and FFP still face multiple court cases, which could result in Thanathorn’s imprisonment, dissolution of party, and banning of its 24 executives from politics. Thanathorn told supporters he would continue to fight and though he “might die in jail”, he would not “lick the boots” of the military; deputy PM warned Thanathorn against using inflammatory language.
Deep south largely quiet in terms of insurgency-related violence and official peace-dialogue process between govt and MARA Patani (Patani Consultative Council), while febrile political environment continued at national level. Apparent suicide attempt 4 Oct by judge in Yala courtroom focused public attention on long-standing misgivings about impartiality of justice system in southernmost provinces; judge shot himself after delivering verdict acquitting five Malay-Muslim defendants of murder and “illegal association”, alleging political interference in case by his superiors. Four rangers suffered light injuries in roadside IED attack in Bannang Sata district, Yala 26 Oct. At national level, royal powers continued to increase, and pro-military govt continued efforts to paint opponents as disloyal to monarchy. Army general 3 Oct brought sedition charges against academic and seven opposition party leaders for discussing constitutional amendments at seminar in Pattani late Sept; 51 MPs of governing Phalang Pracharat Party 9 Oct filed complaints over opposition MPs’ “treasonous” acts, and demanded they be banned from parliament. PM Prayuth Chan-ocha used emergency powers to transfer command of two army regiments to King’s Guard, which reports directly to King Maha Vajiralongkorn; Future Forward Party noted objection to PM’s bypassing parliamentary approval for move. Palace 21 Oct announced that king stripped Royal Noble Consort Sineenat Wongvajirapakdi of military rank and royal titles for “disloyalty”. King subsequently purged at least six other palace officials. Digital Economy and Society Minister early Oct announced that police were on verge of “purging” anti-monarchy figures on social media, and ordered all internet cafes to track customer use of computers for 90 days.
Violence continued in deep south, while constitutional court issued two rulings bolstering PM Prayut Chan-ocha’s new govt. In Khok Pho district in Pattani province, two village defence volunteers killed in ambush involving roadside IED and small-arms fire 16 Sept. Gunmen 19 Sept killed Muslim village chief in Sai Buri district, Pattani province. General Wanlop Rugsanaoh, National Security Council chief, 26 Sept said he will lead Thai peace-dialogue delegation beginning in Oct. Following controversy over PM Prayuth during swearing-in of new govt in July omitting sentence from constitutionally required oath that directs cabinet to uphold the constitution, Constitutional Court 11 Sept declined to accept opposition petition to examine omission, determining it had no authority to consider case. In separate case, court 18 Sept ruled that Prayuth was not considered a “state official” following 2014 coup when he served as head of National Council for Peace Order, which would have made him ineligible to stand as candidate for PM in June 2019. Rulings added to growing perception among some observers of double standards in application of law.
Month saw several small bomb attacks near and in Bangkok, while insurgent attacks continued in deep south. Coinciding with ASEAN foreign minister’s meeting in Bangkok 29 July-3 Aug, six small bombs and six incendiary devices detonated 2 Aug in Bangkok and Nonthaburi, injuring four; two IEDs failed to detonate; seven suspects arrested by 9 Aug, police warrants for seven others still at large issued by 20 Aug. One IED exploded 4 Aug in Nonthaburi, no injuries reported. Political controversy continued following PM Prayuth 16 July omitting sentence from constitutionally required oath that directs cabinet to uphold the constitution. PM Prayuth 8 Aug pledged to take “full responsibility” and said matter of legitimacy of cabinet and constitutionality of govt should be decided by Constitutional Court (CC); Ombudsman’s office 27 Aug referred matter to CC. Criminal court 14 Aug exonerated 24 defendants from United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship group, commonly called Red Shirts, including leaders Jatuporn Prompan and Nattawut Saikua, over 2010 protests, declaring it political rather than terrorist activity. During 17 Aug interview with Reuters, alleged Barisan Revolusi Nasional Patani Melayu leader said militant group and govt representatives met for preliminary talks 16 Aug; General Udomchai Thamasarorat, head of govt’s peace-dialogue delegation, declined to confirm report. Suspected insurgent detainee Abdulloh Esormusor, who lapsed into coma following interrogation after his arrest 20 July, died 25 Aug. Violence continued in deep south; three bombs exploded in Pattani province 4 Aug, no casualties reported. Unknown gunmen 8 Aug killed former militant leader Abdultore Kaso in Thepha district. Bomb blasts injured seven people across four Yala districts 21 Aug. Suspected insurgents 25 Aug robbed a gold shop in Na Thawi district Songkhla of $2.5 million in valuables.
Violence continued in deep south, while new govt cabinet under PM Prayuth Chan-ocha was sworn in. Insurgents launched series of attacks on security forces in Southern Thailand: bomb 12 July targeted four defence volunteers on two motorcycles in Muang district, Yala province, wounding three. In Bacho district, Narathiwat IED explosion 15 July targeted convoy of ranger trucks in district, causing no injuries and improvised mine 17 July wounded three rangers. IED 21 July wounded four rangers in Bannang Satar district, Yala province. Army 22 July announced investigation after suspected insurgent found unconscious in army camp in Pattani province 21 July, day after his arrest; family members claimed he was tortured. Suspected insurgents 23 July killed two soldiers and two defence volunteers in bombing and shooting at military outpost in Pattani province. PM Prayuth Chan-ocha 1 July publicly apologised for delays in forming cabinet and seating new govt, threatening to use the “old method that nobody wants to see”, provoking widespread criticism for allegedly implying threat of staging coup. King Maha Vajiralongkorn 16 July swore in new cabinet, with ruling National Council for Peace and Order party filling finance and interior ministries, and PM serving as defence minister. Constitutional Court (CC) 19 July accepted petition to evaluate PM’s qualifications as PM to determine if being junta leader made Prayuth a “state official”, which would disqualify him from standing as PM candidate. Same day, CC accepted petition accusing Future Forward Party leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, his party and its executives of trying to end constitutional monarchy.
Violence in deep south continued amid stalled peace talks. Following three separate late May incidents, including two IED explosions, that killed five and wounded several in south, IED blast 3 June, on day that Ramadan ended, wounded civilian in Waeng District, Narathiwat. In Pattani’s Yaring district, gunmen 9 June killed Buddhist defence volunteer, while Muslim man wounded in separate shooting same day. Gunmen 10 June shot four people in three separate attacks in Pattani and Narathiwat, killing three. Gunmen 15 June shot and killed two Buddhists in Rangae district, Narathiwat. Malaysian peace-dialogue facilitator Tan Sri Abdul Rahim Noor visited southernmost Thailand 11-14 June, first visit since appointment as facilitator in Aug 2018, made no announcement of renewed talks between Thai govt and Malay-Muslim separatist groups. After Democrat and Bhum Jai Thai parties formed coalition govt with pro-junta Phalang Pracharat Party late May, parliament 5 June re-elected Prayuth Chan-ocha as PM; new govt to be seated 17 July, with junta to retain authority until then.
Govt formation underway after officials 9 May released controversial final results of 24 March general election, while violence in Deep South continued. Final results of constituency and party-list seats put anti-junta coalition at 246 seats, and pro-junta coalition 147 seats; followed Election Commission’s change in allocation of party-list seats helping eleven small pro-junta parties each gain one gain seat, cutting anti-junta coalition’s lead. PM Prayuth Chan-ocha 27 May invited Democrat Party (53 seats) and Bhumjai Thai Party (51 seats) to join new govt; negotiations ongoing, but both parties expected to join. Ruling National Council for Peace and Order continued efforts to disqualify anti-junta Future Forward Party leader. Govt published names of 250-member junta-appointed Senate 14 May. Letter from UN to govt surfaced early May expressing concern about abduction, killing and disappearance of Thais living in Laos who had expressed republican political views; reports also emerged of arrests of activists in Vietnam and Malaysia. Insurgent violence continued in southernmost provinces: in Pattani province, police killed suspected insurgent in Nong Chik district 2 May; IED attack wounded five border patrol police in Thepha district, Songkhla province 5 May; bomb at security checkpoint in Chana district, Songkhla, killed one police officer and wounded three others and a civilian on 27 May; same day, gunmen shot and killed two rangers at market in Bacho district, Narathiwat. Bomb hidden in motorcycle exploded at market in Nong Chik district, Pattani, 28 May, killing two civilians and wounding 23. MARA Patani chief negotiator Sukri Hari resigned 17 May, reportedly for health reasons.
Ahead of final results of 24 March election due 9 May, ruling National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) initiated raft of legal challenges against Future Forward Party, which came in third place with almost seven million votes on anti-junta platform, in apparent attempt to prevent it forming govt with Pheu Thai Party and five smaller parties. NCPO 3 April charged Future Forward Party leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit with “sedition” in connection to role in 2015 anti-junta protest and violating regime orders prohibiting political gatherings of five or more people; Election Commission 23 April unanimously resolved to press charge against Thanathorn for alleged violation of media shareholding rules, which could disqualify him. Insurgent violence continued in southernmost provinces. In Pattani province, motorcycle-borne bomb wounded four policemen and villager in Khok Pho district 12 April; Muslim defence volunteer killed in drive-by shooting in Kapho district 16 April; two people killed in separate attacks 25 April. In Yala province, gunmen executed two Muslim border police in mosque in Than To district 5 April; gunmen killed assistant village headman in Muang district 17 April; gunmen shot dead rubber tapper in Bannang Sata 25 April.
24 March general election, widely criticised for irregularities, resulted in stand-off between junta and pro-democracy parties, while southern insurgent violence continued, including series of bombings outside conventional conflict zone. Pro-junta Phalang Pracharat Party exceeded expectations, gaining 8.4 million votes and 97 constituency seats, positioning it to lead a coalition govt with PM Prayuth Chan-ocha returning to premiership with electoral mandate. Pheu Thai Party (PT, pro-former PM Thaksin Shinawatra) won 7.9 million votes but most constituency seats (137). Seven pro-democracy parties united to form “democratic front” led by PT and 27 March announced they could form majority in lower house of parliament; final vote count to be reported 9 May together with calculation of party-list seats. King Maha Vajiralongkorn 30 March stripped Thaksin of royal decorations, which observers believe could influence political parties’ decisions on joining a coalition. More than 180 complaints of irregularities lodged with Election Commission (EC). EC halted vote counting on election night, and later twice posted – then removed – tallies marked by inconsistencies, casting doubt on EC’s competence and impartiality; protesters gathered in Bangkok 31 March to demand removal of election commissioners, while online petition demanding commissioners resign reached 830,000 signatures. In southern insurgency, Malay-Muslim militants on night of 9-10 March staged series of bombings in Satun and Phatthalung provinces, north of four southernmost provinces that constitute traditional insurgent area of operations; no casualties reported. Deadly attacks continue in deep south; in Narathiwat, attacks included clash between rangers and several militants in Reusoh district 2 March, one suspected insurgent killed; no casualties in gunbattle next day in nearby Dusongyor; roadside IED wounded ranger in Cho Airong district 11 March; militants 12 March attacked military outpost in Tak Bai, wounding two soldiers and civilian; and on 13 March threw pipebombs at police barracks in Yi-ngo district, again no casualties. Woman killed in IED targeting ranger patrol 14 March, Bacho district. Army officer wounded in ambush in Sungai Padi district, 30 March.
While country prepared for 24 March general election, MARA Patani umbrella group of Malay-Muslim separatist fronts suspended moribund peace-dialogue process with Bangkok. After Thai dialogue chief General Udomchai Thammasaroraj refused to meet group in Kuala Lumpur 3 Feb, saying he would only meet with MARA Patani chief Sukri Hari, MARA released statement condemning what it called “hidden agenda” and Udomchai’s “unacceptable attitude”, and suspended participation in process until after election. Several killed in continuing violence in deep south. Incidents included: security forces killed two suspected militants in Chanae district, Narathiwat, 11 Feb, believed to be involved in 18 Jan slaying of two monks in Sungai Padi district; gunmen killed two Muslim farmers in Yaha district, Yala province 14 Feb; bombing killed ranger and wounded two other people in Bannag Satar, Yala, 26 Feb; and two plainclothes police officers were abducted from tea shop and executed in Cho Airong, Narathiwat 27 Feb. Shock announcement 8 Feb that Princess Ubolratana, older sister of King Maha Vajiralongkorn, would stand for PM for recently formed Thai Raksa Chart Party, which is aligned with former PM Thaksin Shinawatra, roiled political landscape. Move prompted speculation that king had broken with ruling National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), however he issued statement hours later quashing her candidacy. With election widely viewed as a contest between pro- and anti-junta parties, NCPO 20 Feb filed criminal charges against popular leader of anti-junta Future Forward Party, for critique of junta posted on his Facebook page in June 2018, potentially disqualifying him and his party from election.
Violence in deep south escalated since late Dec with militants attacking symbolic and soft targets, including, for first time in years, Buddhist monks. Militants 8 Jan lynched retired Buddhist teacher in Saba Yoi district, Songkhla, and used victim’s truck as vehicle-borne IED, wounding two soldiers; defence minister blamed main Malay-Muslim separatist organisation Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN). Bomb in Yarang district, Pattani, same day targeted teacher-protection unit, wounding police officer and twelve-year-old girl. Militants 10 Jan killed four Muslim defence volunteers outside school in Yarang district, Pattani. Gunmen shot dead imam in Rueso district, Narathiwat province 11 Jan. Two insurgents killed in gun battle with security forces in Yaring district, Pattani, 12 Jan; one ranger and eight-year-old girl wounded. Six militants on motorcycles attacked police station in Khok Poh district, Pattani province 13 Jan, killing police officer. Security forces 18 Jan killed insurgent suspect in Chanea district, Narathiwat. Insurgents same day detonated two bombs in Pattani, wounding five soldiers and two police. Also on 18 Jan, militants attacked Buddhist temple in Sungai Padi, killing two monks. Three police and three civilians wounded in 25 Jan bombing in Krong Pinang, Pattani. Chief of Thailand’s peace-dialogue delegation 4 Jan met with Malaysian facilitator to discuss new framework for talks with BRN. BRN released video and statement dated 4 Jan marking fifteen-year anniversary of renewed insurgency, saying peace possible only if govt is sincere. Chief of delegation 11 Jan said govt would study political decentralisation as possible component of resolution. Royal decree published 23 Jan ordered general election, which Election Commission announced will take place 24 March; announcements calmed rising tensions and some protests after junta mid-Jan said previously promised 24 Feb election would not take place.
At meeting of ruling junta National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), National Legislative Assembly, cabinet, Constitution Drafting Committee and Election Commission 7 Dec with representatives from dozens of political parties to discuss upcoming general election, PM Prayuth affirmed vote will take place 24 Feb; two largest parties, Democrats and Pheu Thai, refused to participate on grounds that NCPO should not be involved in election procedures. NCPO 11 Dec partially lifted ban on political activities, allowing political parties to publicise their platforms. Opposition parties continued to question NCPO-appointed Electoral Commission’s impartiality and denounce flurry of govt cash handouts to important political constituencies and alleged govt intervention in redrawing of electoral boundaries seen as attempt to influence vote, denied by Prayuth. Amid ongoing insurgent violence in Deep South, roadside bomb killed one police officer and wounded five in Bacho, Narathiwat 24 Dec. Two bombs exploded on Samila Beach, Songkhla, 26 Dec, damaging two sculptures popular with tourists; also in Songkhla, two bombs damaged power poles while authorities disarmed four more explosive devices. Roadside bomb wounded four civilians in Si Sakhon district, Narathiwat 28 Dec. Insurgents attacked security outpost in Rangae district, causing no injuries, and authorities recovered six small bombs in Chanae and Tak Bai districts. On 29 Dec, three rangers wounded in ambush in Si Sakhon; assistant village headman killed in Mayo, Pattani; and four bombs exploded in Cho Airong, Rangae, Reusoh, and Si Sakhon districts, Narathiwat province, causing property damage.
Violence continued in Deep South and uncertainty continued over date for general election. In Deep South, attackers 17 Nov fired grenades and small arms rounds at Ranger base in Nong Chik district, Pattani; no casualties. Two motorcycle-borne gunmen shot dead man at tea shop in Bannang Sata district, Yala 18 Nov. On 25 Nov, two defence volunteers and assistant village head were killed in gun attack at a market in Thepa district, Songkhla; bomb attack on ranger patrol in Yaha district, Yala, injured one; and six attackers shot at rangers and defence volunteers in Rangae district, Narathiwat, no injuries. Southern Border Provinces Administrative Centre 23 Oct reported that violent incidents in southernmost provinces have declined by 70% since 2011, with only 140 incidents to date in 2018 compared to 619 in 2011. National Security Council 20 Nov announced lifting of state of emergency – in effect in most districts in Deep South since 2005 – in Narathiwat province’s Sukhirin district, and imposition of 2008 Internal Security Act, in view of improved security situation. Govt yet to declare official date for general election, widely presumed to be 24 Feb 2019. PM Prayuth Chan-ocha 17 Nov invoked Article 44 of 2014 Interim Constitution to give Electoral Commission (EC) power to redraw constituency boundaries, amid complaints over lack of public consultation and EC’s perceived lack of independence, seen as likely to benefit pro-regime parties. New constituency boundaries published in Royal Gazette 29 Nov.
Personnel changes, and Malaysian PM Mahathir Mohamad’s late-Oct visit to Bangkok, spurred media speculation about new momentum in moribund peace dialogue between Thailand and Mara Patani, umbrella group of Malay-Muslim separatist fronts (Malaysia serves as dialogue facilitator), however no specific initiatives or date for resuming talks were announced, and violence in deep south continued. Retired General Udomchai Thammasaroraj was appointed head of Thailand’s peace-dialogue delegation, and Lt General Pornsak Poonsawat replaced newly retired Lt General Piyawat Nakwanich as commander of Fourth Army Region. Mara Patani mid-Oct told media that it had been joined by three unspecified Patani-Malay nationalist groups; also said Mara Patani would submit new proposal for dialogue following Thai general election expected before May 2019. Main militant group, Barisan Revolusi Nasional Patani Melayu (BRN), in late Oct media interviews reiterated position that group is willing to engage in dialogue under condition that process is between Bangkok and BRN. Several killed including civilians in militant violence in deep south. Ahead of general election, political activity gathering pace despite junta’s ban on political campaigning. Electoral Commission considering investigating pro-Thaksin Shinawatra Pheu Thai Party for breaching election law, which could result in party’s dissolution. New pro-regime party, Palang Pracharat Party, late Sept announced that three senior executive members are sitting cabinet members; junta said they are not obliged to resign, but many politicians voiced objections to conflict of interest.
Violence continued in Deep South, while royal approval of two election laws cleared way for vote in 2019. In ongoing Southern insurgency, gunmen killed two civilians in daylight attack in Thepha district, Songkhla province 2 Sept; militants 8 Sept killed two village defence volunteers and wounded two others in Chanae district, Narathiwat. Roadside IED targeted officials in Songkhla’s Chana district 9 Sept, no injuries; insurgents ambushed motorcycle-borne ranger patrol in Nong Chik district, Pattani 11 Sept, killing two and wounding four. Insurgents launched coordinated attacks on two Provincial Electricity Authority offices in Yala and Pattani 30 August, no injuries. Royal Gazette 12 Sept published king’s approval of two final organic laws on election, removing the final legal obstacles for general election to proceed according to ruling National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO)’s roadmap. Law on election of members of parliament will take effect 10 Dec, after which constitution requires a general election be held within 150 days. NCPO 14 Sept partially lifted ban on political activity, allowing political parties inter alia to select executives and contact members. Most political activity, including campaigning, still prohibited; govt said ban on political gatherings of five or more people and other political activities will be lifted mid-Dec. UN Secretary-General’s annual report 12 Sept listed Thailand among 38 countries engaging in reprisals and intimidation “against civilians who cooperate with the UN to uphold human rights”; junta spokesman said accusation was meant to discredit govt.
Violence in Southern insurgency continued: in Narathiwat province, two Muslim defence volunteers killed in ambush in Sungai Padi district 7 Aug, and police blamed militants for murder of Buddhist woman and her daughter in Bacho district 11 Aug. In Pattani province, gunmen 8 Aug killed villager in Mayo district and wounded defence volunteer in Kapho district; suspected militants shot and wounded police officer and his wife in Saiburi 18 Aug. Authorities 22 Aug announced they had killed three militant suspects and arrested ten in operations over preceding week, including two killed in raid in Yala province’s Krong Pinang district. Gunman killed defence volunteer and bystander in Pattani town 30 Aug. Malaysian PM Mahathir appointed former police inspector general Tan Sri Abdul Rahim Noor as new facilitator for dialogue process between Thai govt and MARA Patani (Patani Consultative Council, umbrella group of five Malay-Muslim separatist groups in exile); still no indication of when dialogue will resume. In most concrete indication yet of prospective date for long-delayed general election, Election Commission 18 Aug said election would take place 24 Feb 2019 but reversed announcement following day; Deputy PM Wissanu Krea-ngam 20 Aug said election would take place between 24 Feb and 5 May; and PM Prayuth Chan-ocha said, during mobile cabinet meeting in Chumphon province 22 Aug, that election could be held 24 Feb “if we can do it”.
Amid ongoing violence in southern insurgency, series of five bombings targeting Buddhist-owned rubber plantations in Yala province 28 June-4 July wounded five, including in Krong Pinang district 2 July and Muang district 4 July. Villager shot dead at rubber plantation in Chanae district, Songkhla province 14 July. Motorcycle-borne gunmen shot dead policeman in Cho Airong district, Narathiwat, 10 July. Dialogue process between Bangkok and MARA Patani (Patani Consultative Council) remains on hold pending decision by new Malaysian govt on its role as facilitator. PM Prayuth Chan-ocha 27 June said another meeting with political parties would be held in Sept to discuss long-delayed national poll; commented that “national reconciliation” and stability must be achieved before general election; and dismissed as groundless speculation that he would compete for elected office. National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO)’s hand-picked National Assembly 9 July unanimously approved twenty-year national strategy, including sanctions designed to prevent future civilian govts from revoking it, ruling that they must comply with strategy and stating that political parties are prohibited from advocating policies at odds with strategy; regime’s appointed Senate will ensure compliance, together with National Strategy Commission, which will include all military service chiefs.