Thai junta banning political-party actitvity

The new military government of Thailand is tightening restrictions on political parties, assuming all legislative authority, and claiming it will be a year before elections are held again under a new constitution.

Thailand’s suspended constitution had been in place only sine 1997, when it was enacted with broad national consensus and much international acclaim in the wake of the currency crisis. Among the world’s constitutions, it would rank pretty high as a modern democratic document. Among the problems of Thai democracy–and there are many–the constitution would rank pretty low.

The main opposition Democrats deny that there is a need for a new constitution, but the military’s restrictions include all parties, not just that of the ousted leader.

It remains early in the process, but this is beginning to seem less like Poder Moderador (being an arbiter, a la Brazilian and most Latin American coups before the 1960s) and more institutional (i.e., bent on changing the regime and not merely the government). That is not to say that we are looking at 15-20 years of military rule (as was the case in much of South America), but the Thai military seemingly has adopted a transformative mission. If so, it is likely to be in power for more than the avdertised one year.

Note: I do not plan to continue regular updates on the military junta, until such time as a constitutional or electoral process is again underway.

0 thoughts on “Thai junta banning political-party actitvity

  1. I’d say the Thai coup is much like the Brazilian Estado Novo in 1937 and the Chilean coup of 1924. Both were aimed at total transformation. I’ve never bought the Alfred Stepan model of civil-military relations.

  2. I don’t follow how both of those coups could be conceptual models for understanding this Thai coup. One of them resulted in a new democratic constitution within about a year (with only one further intervention in the next 48 years). The other ushered in eight years of dictatorship (with ongoing “moderating” interventions after democratic elections were restored).

    I don’t know much of the civil-military literature beyond Stepan, and would be curious to know what the problems are with the Stepan dichotomy (alluded to in my main planting). It always seemed to me to be a reasonable description of two very general types of coups.

  3. From 1924-1932, Chile experienced various periods of weak civilian rule, military rule, coups, countercoups, and even a self-proclaimed (but short-lived) Socialist Republic. The 1925 constitution was transformative, because its purpose was to end over 30 years of a weak presidency and ensure the military’s right to intervene. The depression and popular disgust with the military finally served to bring back democracy, but only after eight years of disaster.

    That’s why the Thai coup seemed similar to me–the idea that the constitution needs to be reshaped, and that civilians need not return immediately.

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