Thailand Democracy and Rights

Democracy and rights

Abbreviated as THA by Abbreviationfinder, Thailand is not a democratic country, not even on paper. The constitution adopted in 2017, during the military juncture, gives the armed forces continued great political influence even after the transition to civilian rule after the spring 2019 elections.

The military retains control of the policy through, among other things, reserved seats in the legislative assembly. According to the constitution, the prime minister (head of government) is to be appointed by the king on the advice of the military junta. The Constitution includes a strategic plan that sets the guidelines for the content of the policy for 20 years to come. The government that does not comply with the plan can be dismissed (see further Political system).

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The royal house, which is close to the military, has greater power in reality than the Constitution provides. In addition, the royal family was given increased powers in the 2017 constitution, including greater influence over the economy and assets of the court state (see Political system). The royal power of informal power is great, especially because the court of tradition has close ties with powerful actors in the military, the administration and the courts.

The opposition cannot act freely because the military-appointed Senate can ban politicians and ban them from working politically for five years. As late as September 2018, political parties were again allowed after being banned during the military junta. In 2018, more than 130 democracy activists were prosecuted for holding illegal meetings during which they demanded that the military regime ease the restrictions on political rights.

Corruption is widespread throughout the legal system and influential people can influence the legal processes. Impunity exists. Corruption is also extensive within the police. A number of judicial bodies, such as an anti-corruption unit, may initiate legal proceedings or prosecution cases against political leaders. Both Thaksin and Yingluck fell in this way. In 2019, Thailand was ranked 101 out of 180 countries in the Transparency International Index of Corruption in the World (see full list here). It was two investments worse than the year before.

Freedom of expression and media

The Thai press was long considered one of the freest in Southeast Asia. From the turn of the millennium, however, political unrest has gradually eroded media freedom. After the military coup in 2014, censorship was introduced and the freedom of the press and opinion has subsequently been subjected to severe restrictions.

The situation deteriorated already during Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s time in power (2001–2006). Thaksin tried in various ways to pressure the media to give a positive image of his government. A number of foreign journals had their publication temporarily halted and Thai journalists reporting corruption and other sensitive topics were exposed to threats and harassment.

Following the military coup in May 2014, a number of TV and radio stations were closed to avoid politically sensitive reporting. The ether media were referred to transmit information only from the army.

In particular, those in power have used so-called supreme crimes to prevent malicious reporting of the royal house, the military and the judiciary. It is forbidden by law to criticize and insult the royal family. Since the middle of the first decade of the 2000s, prison sentences for so-called majesty crimes have increased sharply.

In 2014, Thailand was ranked 130th out of 180 on Reporters Without Borders index of media freedom in the world. Four years later, the country had fallen to 140. By 2020, Thailand remained in the same place (see the full list here).

In practice, the government controls all terrestrial TV channels. The military owns most radio channels and rents them out to private operators.

The new media has a prominent role and a large number of websites and blogs have been subjected to scrutiny and in many cases closed by the authorities. Often this has been about illegal criticism of the royal house, but restrictions on freedom of expression have also been made with reference to the troubled political situation in the country. After the May 2014 coup, hundreds of websites were closed by the military.

Judicial system and legal security

The 2017 Constitution gives greater powers to the Constitutional Court than it previously had. The court can influence the political process by dismissing elected leaders and dissolving political parties. It can annul constitutional amendments and veto individual laws, both before and after the law has been approved by the National Assembly.

The situation for human rights has improved since democratization in the early 1990s. However, in southern Thailand, where a separatist uprising is taking place, there are exceptional laws in several places. From there come many reports of abuses against the civilian population, carried out by both the police and the military as well as the insurgents (for more information on the conflict in southern Thailand see here).

After the coup in May 2014, the police and the military were given greatly increased powers, for example, to arrest and detain people. The military government has been criticized by human rights organizations for extensive violations of human rights since the coup. The crimes consist, among other things, of arbitrary arrests, violations of freedom of expression, unfair trials and accusations of abuse by police and the military.

Conditions in the country’s overcrowded prisons are inadequate and prisoners are being beaten and tortured. The death penalty is punished for murder and serious drug offenses. Executions, which are done with poison injections, are unusual but occur.

Thailand Crime Rate & Statistics



The claim against the Democratic Party is rejected

The Constitutional Court again rejects accusations from the Electoral Commission directed at the Democratic Party, which this time would have failed in the account of a party contribution from a large corporation. Like last time, the notification had not been made correctly and was rejected as a result.


Investigation against the Democratic Party is closed

The Constitutional Court files an investigation based on allegations made by the Election Commission that the Democratic Party would have used illegal financial grants in its election campaign. The court dismisses the charges for legal reasons, for example, if the complaint had been received too late. Similar accusations have previously dropped two Thaksin-friendly governments.


Thaksin resigns as Cambodian adviser

Relations with Cambodia are normalized since Thaksin left his position as financial adviser to the government in Phnom Penh.


Over 90 red shirts are killed in a storm

The military storms the camps of the red shirts and breaks through their blockades in an attempt to end the demonstrations that are hindering government work. The effort leads to the death of 91 protesters.


Bangkok is paralyzed by the demonstrations

Demonstrations are growing rapidly in size and soon the entire central Bangkok is being paralyzed by tens of thousands of protesters.


The red shirts require the government’s departure

The red shirts are launching mass demonstrations in Bangkok with the goal of forcing the government to resign and announce new elections.


Half of Thaksin’s wealth is seized

The Supreme Court confiscates half of the Thaksin family’s fortune since it ruled that Thaksin illegally seized around $ 1.4 billion during his tenure as prime minister.