Anti Military and Monarchy Protests in Thailand
Click image for larger version  Name:	Thailand-Protests.jpg Views:	1 Size:	49.2 KB ID:	376

Thai protesters, led by student groups, are returning to the streets calling for the ousting of the government less than two years after a general election was held. One group has openly criticised the monarchy, in a rare show of defiance.

Here are the major events that have led up to these protests:

May 22. 2014
Military stages a coup, ousting an elected government for the second time in a decade, citing the need to restore order in the face of street demonstrations against a populist government linked to telecoms tycoon Mr. Thaksin Shinawatra, who himself was ousted in a coup in 2006. In a TV statement, army chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha - which is currently the acting prime minister - vowed to restore order and enact political reforms. The cabinet has been told to report to the military, TV broadcasting is suspended and political gatherings are banned. A nationwide curfew will operate from 22:00 to 05:00 local time. The coup follows months of political turmoil in Thailand. The army imposed martial law. Talks were then held between the main political factions, but the army announced the coup on Thursday. Key political figures, including opposition protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban and pro-government protest leader Jatuporn Prompan, were taken away from the talks venue after troops sealed off the area. Troops fired into the air to disperse a pro-government protest camp on the outskirts of Bangkok but there are no reports of major violence.

October 13. 2016
Constitutional monarch King Bhumibol Adulyadej dies after a 70-year reign. His son becomes King Maha Vajiralongkorn.

April 06. 2017
A military-backed constitution is ratified after being approved in a referendum, with changes requested by King Vajiralongkorn that increased his powers, paving the way for an election.

February 07. 2019
The king rebukes his sister, Princess Ubolratana, over a Thaksin-linked party’s nomination of her as its candidate for prime minister. The party is later dissolved by a court before the election.

March 24, 2019
General elections held amid complaints of cheating and vote-buying. Former army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha, who led the 2014 coup and was then prime minister of a military government, heads a pro-army party that wins the most votes.

November 20. 2019
Court disqualifies rising opposition figure Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, leader of the Future Forward Party, from parliament prompting thousands to rally in Bangkok.

January 12. 2020
More than 12,000 people join an anti-government “Run Against Dictatorship” in the biggest show of dissent since the 2014 coup. A rival group holds a run in support of Prayuth.

February 21. 2020
Future Forward Party is banned for illegally taking a loan from its billionaire leader, Thanathorn, prompting small student protests on university campuses.

March 22. 2020
Given restrictions to stop the novel coronavirus, student protests peter out but online criticism of government continues, with some also directing criticism at the king.

June 08. 2020
The hashtag “#whydoweneedaking?” is posted more than 1 million times. Small protests held to call for an investigation into the disappearance of an exiled government critic in Cambodia.

June 15. 2020
Prayuth warns political activists not to criticise the monarchy.

June 24. 2020
Protesters gather to mark the anniversary of the end of absolute monarchy in 1932.

July 18. 2020
About 2,500 protesters gather at Democracy Monument, one of the largest demonstrations since the coup, calling for the dissolution of parliament and new elections.

August 04. 2020
Speakers call for the monarchy’s power to be curbed at a rally attended by hundreds in Bangkok.

Is Thailand the Worlds last Military Dictatorship ?

If military dictatorship is defined in the strictest sense as the rule of a junta or military officer who comes to power through a coup and then doesn’t hold elections to offer a veneer of legitimacy, then Thailand is the world’s last military dictatorship. It seems difficult to believe that such a peaceful, thriving country that welcomes millions of tourists each year is in fact a military dictatorship, let alone the last one. Yet Thailand has been through so many military coups that they almost have a business-as-usual feel to them. The reality of army rule in the country is that it is, in a political sense, thoroughly unremarkable, reliant on a familiar mix of repression and political control, with one key difference: It has the blessings of a powerful protector.

Nowadays, the military-coup playbook revolves around holding elections within a year or so of seizing power, usually after carefully drafting a constitution. The 2006 coup in Thailand followed this very pattern. A year and a half after it was staged, elections were held under a new constitution entrenching the power of the military in a country still partly under martial law. Despite those efforts, though, the pro-military parties still lost at the polls. In fact, in Thailand, the military usually loses post-coup elections, a fact its leaders are very much aware of. Unable to effectively engage in direct election rigging, Thai military juntas have consolidated power in more subtle ways, particularly through constitution creation.

The Coup-Leader's Election

The current constitution, written under the supervision of the military and signed into law in 2017, is designed to allow the loser of an election, next due to be held on March 24, to lead the government anyway. The prime minister is to be chosen by a joint sitting of the Senate, whose 250 members are nominated entirely by the army, and the House of Representatives, whose 500 members are directly elected. To get “elected” by the two chambers, then, Prayuth Chan-ocha, the current head of the military junta, needs only 126 votes out of the 500 members of the lower house to reach the combined threshold and become prime minister.

On top of this, Thai post-coup constitutions also tend to be civilian-government-proof. According to the 2017 constitution, Thailand’s entire political system is under the control of the army, through the appointed Senate but also via an array of military-dominated oversight bodies. And in any event, the election results remain at the mercy of another possible military coup. How have military coups become so ensconced in Thai politics?
  • There is the matter of path dependence. Data suggest that the likelihood of a coup correlates with the number of past coups: since 1932, Thailand has experienced an average of one every seven years. And for Thai generals, coup-making is a low-risk activity; no coup leader has ever been prosecuted. (Amnesty provisions for coup-makers are firmly written into each constitution.)
  • Thai post-coup military governments rely on what the scholar Johannes Gerschewski calls the classic mix of legitimation, co-optation and repression. Elites are co-opted, and pro-military civil-society groups, often members of the “bourgeois” middle class, support what they see as coups for democracy whose effect is to maintain the traditional social structure in which they enjoy a favorable position. For anti-military segments of the population, usually less privileged, there is immediate repression, resistance to which is muted by the memory of past bloodshed. In 1976, 1992 and 2010 people who marched against the military or pro-military governments were shot by the army, causing a cumulative toll of several hundred deaths.
  • Military takeovers owe a debt to the king’s patronage. The regular pattern of coup-making in Thailand entails the king legalizing the coup. In 2006, the televised announcement of the coup was made in front of pictures of the king and queen, before the coup-makers were granted, in front of the camera, a royal audience. Even in 2014, King Bhumibol, who was at the time very ill, was still part of the army’s legitimation plan. Coup leaders had a picture of themselfes bowing in front of a life-size picture of the king published in major newspapers, before eventually being granted an audience and amnesty. So is Thailand really a military dictatorship like no other - a military dictatorship under royal command?
Interesting comparisons can be drawn with political systems in which strong kings rely on influential militaries. Such countries, like Jordan or Morocco, do not experience a similar pattern of coups against elected governments, though. When they do experience coup attemps or even coup rumors, they are directed against the king. This would be unthinkable in Thailand, where coups only occur against prime ministers - the king being officially above politics.

In reality, systems in which military dictators rely on monarchs, whether strong or weak, are scarce. Such a system could perhaps have developed in 1980's Spain if the attempt 1981 military coup against the prime minister had been successful. But King Juan Carlos opposed it, and the coup failed. The same year, the king of Thailand also opposed a coup attempt against his protégé, Prem Tinsulanonda - and that coup likewise failed. In monarchies, for coups directed against a prime minister to succeed, the support of the monarch seems to be the key. But apart from the role of the king, which gives the military its astonishing resilience, Thailand is very much a military dictatorship like any other using its power to:
  • Imposing a Nationwide Curfew
  • Declaring Martial Law
  • Ruling by Decree
  • Cracking down on Dissent
  • Arresting Politicians and Anti-Coup Activists
  • Censoring Media and the Internet
  • Banning Public | Political Gatherings.