Thailand’s junta has relinquished military rule in favour of pseudo-democracy in which a pro-military party governs with a narrow parliamentary majority. There are no obvious near-term triggers for political turmoil in Thailand, but the country’s fundamental political and social divisions have not been bridged, and there is potential for future conflict. In the deep south, the Malay-Muslim separatist insurgency continues, while the dialogue process appears moribund. Crisis Group aims to reduce the risk of escalation in the south and limit medium-term threats to political stability by supporting strengthened democratic institutions and promoting substantive peace talks.
Despite winning big at the polls on 14 May, Thailand’s Move Forward has been blocked from forming a government. In taking this step, as Crisis Group expert Matt Wheeler explains in this Q&A, the party’s conservative opponents are nudging the country toward turmoil.
Constitutional Court ruled Move Forward Party’s lèse-majesté stance unconstitutional, Court of Appeals handed activist 50-year prison sentence, and govt signalled talks with main southern separatist group may resume in Feb.
Constitutional Court ruled on cases concerning future of Move Forward Party. After stunning victory in May 2023 general election, Move Forward Party’s leader Pita Limjareonrat was suspended from MP duties due to allegations he broke election law by holding shares in media company during election campaign. Constitutional Court 24 Jan ruled Pita did not violate election regulations. Constitutional Court 31 Jan ruled that Move Forward Party’s efforts to amend Section 112 of Criminal Code – the lèse-majesté law – violate constitution and must cease; verdict will likely trigger legal proceedings to dissolve party.
Court sentenced activist to 50 years for lèse-majesté conviction. Court of Appeals in Chiang Rai 18 Jan found Mongkol “Busbas” Thirakot, a 30-year-old activist, guilty of eleven counts of lèse-majesté associated with 27 Facebook posts, for which he was sentenced to three years imprisonment on each count, which combined with earlier convictions marked record sentence of 50 years. Bangkok criminal court 17 Jan convicted attorney Arnon Nampa of lèse-majesté for three Facebook posts from Jan 2021, sentencing him to four years imprisonment.
Govt signalled potential return to southern dialogue amid militant attacks. Deputy PM Somsak Thepsuthin 10 Jan met with Malaysia’s General Zulkifli Zainal Abidin, facilitator of peace dialogue with main southern separatist armed group Barisan Revolusi Nasional; talks have been in abeyance for almost one year but govt’s chief negotiator said he expected talks to resume in Feb. Meanwhile, four motorcycle-borne militants 10 Jan opened fire on Border Patrol Police (BPP) vehicle in Bannang Sata district, Yala province, injuring two officers. Militants next day ambushed BPP vehicle in Rueso district, Narathiwat province, killing lieutenant. IED attack 16 Jan damaged BPP vehicle in Sri Sakhon district, Narathiwat province, but caused no injuries.
There’s a sense of hopelessness [in Thailand] — that there’s no way to effect any kind of real change in the available political avenues.
Negotiations between Bangkok and the main insurgent group in Thailand’s southernmost provinces are on hold, after making some promising advances. Structural and procedural changes could help keep the talks going when they resume.
The Thai government has restarted talks with the main insurgency in the country’s southernmost provinces. A quiet back channel helped the parties make progress – and reach a Ramadan ceasefire – while the official negotiations hosted by Malaysia paused. The parties should build on these achievements.
Youth-led protests demanding a new constitution and reforms to Thailand’s monarchy led the country to a perilous juncture in 2020. In this excerpt from our Watch List 2021, Crisis Group urges the EU and its member states to push for the cessation of excessive use of force against protesters, strengthen efforts to monitor the human rights situation and offer support should a reconciliation process materialise.
Young pro-democracy protesters have roiled Thai politics with a previously taboo demand to reform the country’s monarchy. As the state resists change, and conservative citizens recoil, the risk of violence is growing. The standoff poses Thailand’s existential question: is the king sovereign or are the people?
Anti-government protests and popular demands for reform, including of the once-sacrosanct monarchy, have accelerated in Thailand. In this Q&A, Crisis Group’s senior analyst for South East Asia, Matt Wheeler, explains how this crisis over political legitimacy has now reached a dangerous impasse.
Sound public health policies have largely spared Thailand from the coronavirus to date. But a looming economic crisis could shake the foundations of the political order. What is needed is revision of the 2017 constitution to allow for more pluralism and less inequality.
Talks to end the insurgency in Thailand’s southernmost provinces have repeatedly encountered obstacles, including the main rebel organisation’s abstention from the current round. With a new Thai official taking charge, and inviting that group to rejoin, both parties should drop objections that have hindered progress.
On 5 November, insurgents in southern Thailand staged their deadliest attack in years, killing fifteen people. Crisis Group’s South East Asia Senior Analyst, Matt Wheeler, explains what happened and what it means for the stagnant peace-dialogue process.
Receive the best source of conflict analysis right in your inbox.