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.
Violence persisted in deep south, as govt appointed new head in dialogue with main southern separatist group.
Violence continued in southernmost provinces. In Narathiwat province, militants 3 Nov detonated 25kg IED targeting paramilitary rangers travelling in private vehicle in Tanyong Mas subdistrict, Rangae district. One ranger was killed 9 Nov after stepping on improvised mine in forested area of Tanyong Mas; militants 10 Nov fired small arms at security outpost in same subdistrict, causing no casualties. Authorities same day discovered and safely detonated IED in Bacho District, Narathiwat. Seven motorcycle-borne militants 12 Nov surrounded Muslim ranger officer, then on leave, who was travelling on motorcycle with his wife in Rueso district; they forced both to ground and shot officer more than ten times before fleeing. Media reports 27 Nov indicated that PM Srettha Thavisin appointed Chatchai Bangchuad, deputy sec gen of National Security Council, to lead govt’s delegation in dialogue with main militant group Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN).
National politics remained in holding pattern. Since formation of Pheu Thai Party-led govt in Sept, national politics entered routine holding pattern marked by opposition focusing on criticising govt policy proposals, such as 10,000-baht digital wallet.
In other important developments. FM Parnpree Bahiddha-Nukara 1 Nov visited Qatar to meet Iranian FM Hossein Amir-Abdollahian in efforts to secure release of 32 Thai hostages held in Gaza (see Israel-Palestine); Hamas 24-28 Nov released nineteen Thai hostages but thirteen Thais remain in captivity. As fighting spread across northern Myanmar (see Myanmar), some 260 Thais on 19 Nov were evacuated from Shan State to China’s Yunnan province; most are believed to have been victims of human trafficking, forced to work in scam call centres.
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.
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