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11
Nov-2013

Democracy in Thailand – Perspective from the Inside Out

If you watch the news, you might be forgiven for thinking that Thailand actually has a free and open democracy. You will see protests and demonstrations being broadcast, where people are speaking their mind and their opinions are being heard. However, as it is in many locations throughout the world – what you see on the news is not always the full picture.

When you delve deeper into the politics of this country – Thailand is still managed by a handful of the wealthy and there are still a lot of freedoms that its citizens do not have. Let’s take a look at the political climate in Thailand.

History of Politics in Thailand

Thailand’s politics are conducted within the framework of a constitutional monarchy and they have been that way since the ‘Democratic Revolution’ in 1932. The Prime Minister became head of the government at that time and there was the first written constitution established. However, rather than evolving into a democracy the political environment became a fighting zone between generals bureaucrats and old and new elite groups.

To this day, Thailand has had seventeen different constitutions and charters, which reflects the fact that there is a high degree of political instability in the country.

Jailed for Facebook Likes

In a democratic country, citizens should have freedom of speech and the ability to speak their minds on social media. However, there have been recent reports in the news that the Thai government has been threatening to send some of its citizens to jail for posting or even clicking “like” on Facebook posts related to rumours of a coup within Thailand.

According to this August news article, four people have been arrested and questioned for making posts on Facebook which were “causing panic”. The posts themselves mentioned the possibility of a military coup and the arrests were made under section 116 of the Thailand Computer Crime Act.

Freedom of speech is not clearly defined as a right belonging to the Thai people and there are many things that are illegal to say. One of the fundamental tenants of a democracy must be that its citizens have the right to freedom of speech.

Thailand is More Authoritarian than Democratic in a Lot of Ways

Thailand’s politics are more of a soft authoritarianism and there are a number of security forces which use threats, arrests and online filtering to intimidate opponents of the government.

According to the Freedom House, Thailand has been recently ranked as only “partly free”. Compared to other developing nations, Thailand has sunk down below them in terms of press freedom.

What are your thoughts on “democracy” in Thailand? Let us know your opinion on the political situation in Thailand by leaving a comment below.

photo credit: Nik Cyclist via photopin cc

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