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Showing posts for "Yingluck Shinawatra"

Thailand: It’s On (Again)

by Joshua Kurlantzick
A protester hits a picture of Thailand's Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra in central Bangkok on November 4, 2013. Thousands of people took to the streets of the Thai capital as their mass protest continues after lawmakers approved a draft political amnesty bill that could allow the return of self-exiled former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, one of Thailand's most polarizing figures. (Damir Sagolj/Courtesy Reuters) A protester hits a picture of Thailand's Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra in central Bangkok on November 4, 2013. Thousands of people took to the streets of the Thai capital as their mass protest continues after lawmakers approved a draft political amnesty bill that could allow the return of self-exiled former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, one of Thailand's most polarizing figures. (Damir Sagolj/Courtesy Reuters)

Like classic adversaries in a game of brinkmanship who lose control and then have no choice but to follow through on their threats, Thailand’s two major opposing political groupings now have gone too far to retreat. On Friday the Puea Thai Party pushed the controversial amnesty bill through the lower house of Parliament, with Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra reportedly calling in all Puea Thai MPs and telling them they had to vote for the bill, even though some had reservations about how it provides amnesty for security forces involved in killing red shirt protesters in Bangkok in 2009 and 2010. Today, the bill will almost surely pass the Senate. Read more »

Thailand Headed for Political Meltdown—Again

by Joshua Kurlantzick
An anti-government protester wearing a Guy Fawkes mask holds a picture of Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej during a protest in Bangkok's shopping district on August 18, 2013. Several hundred people marched through central Bangkok to protest against the amnesty bill, saying it could help ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra return from exile without having to serve a jail sentence. (Athit Perawongmetha/Courtesy Reuters) An anti-government protester wearing a Guy Fawkes mask holds a picture of Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej during a protest in Bangkok's shopping district on August 18, 2013. Several hundred people marched through central Bangkok to protest against the amnesty bill, saying it could help ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra return from exile without having to serve a jail sentence. (Athit Perawongmetha/Courtesy Reuters)

Thailand, which has gone through one political crisis after the next for nearly a decade now, appears poised for more political turmoil. Most of the factors that have caused previous periods of unrest are now locking into place once again. The ruling Puea Thai Party, though democratically elected, has taken its mandate as a license to operate like an elected dictatorship, and now is trying to push through parliament a misguided, potentially damaging amnesty law. The law, as Human Rights Watch notes in a summary, would prevent prosecutions of nearly everyone involved in political protests and counterprotests in Thailand in recent years. The amnesty would apply to members of the security forces who killed at least seventy protesters in Bangkok in 2009 and 2010 and the leaders of the government at that time who oversaw these massacres.  The law also potentially would make it easier for the return to Thailand of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, the leader—though in exile—of the Puea Thai party and a potent symbol to Thailand’s rural voters, who have continued to back Thaksin and his party for more than a decade. With the law, Thaksin could potentially return to Thailand without having to face any accountability for his time as prime minister, when he oversaw a “war on drugs” that led to thousands of unaccounted for deaths, or any accountability for corruption charges that were laid against him after he was deposed from office. Read more »

Bangkok Election Reinforces Class Divide

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Thailand's prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra prepares to cast her ballot in the election for Bangkok's governor in a polling station in Bangkok March 3, 2013. Thailand's prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra prepares to cast her ballot in the election for Bangkok's governor in a polling station in Bangkok March 3, 2013 (Damir Sagolj/Courtesy Reuters).

On Sunday, Bangkokians turned out in record-breaking numbers to cast their votes in the city’s gubernatorial election—the first such contest since the violent red-shirt protests that engulfed the capital in the spring of 2010. The incumbent MR Sukhumbhand Paribatra of the Democrat Party was elected for a second term with 1.25 million votes. Equally notable was the fact that, for the first time, a runner-up—in this case, Pongsapat Pongcharoen of the Peau Thai party—received more than one million votes. As Bangkok Pundit notes, the mere 178,000 votes that separated the candidates marked the narrowest margin in the history of Bangkok elections. Read more »

Does Bangkok Have a Real Negotiating Partner in the South?

by Joshua Kurlantzick
The secretary-general of Thailand's National Security Council and the chief of Thailand's National Revolution Front (BRN) attend the signing ceremony of the general consensus document to launch a dialogue process for peace in the border provinces of southern Thailand, in Kuala Lumpur February 28, 2013 (Bazuki Muhammad/Courtesy Reuters). The secretary-general of Thailand's National Security Council and the chief of Thailand's National Revolution Front (BRN) attend the signing ceremony of the general consensus document to launch a dialogue process for peace in the border provinces of southern Thailand, in Kuala Lumpur February 28, 2013 (Bazuki Muhammad/Courtesy Reuters).

This past week, Thailand’s government made the surprising announcement that it would launch talks with the insurgent organization National Revolution Front (BRN) in the south, with the discussions focused on achieving peace in the south. This marked the first time Bangkok had opened talks with any insurgent organization in the south since the violence flared up again more than a decade ago. Previously, many Thai leaders had insisted that even opening formal talks with an insurgent organization would be providing the insurgents with the kind of status they did not deserve, and possibly would open the door to significant autonomy for the three southern provinces. Read more »

Thailand’s Lèse Majesté Law Descends Further

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Activists hold signs as they gather in front of the Thai Criminal court during a protest in Bangkok January 25, 2013. Activists hold signs as they gather in front of the Thai Criminal court during a protest in Bangkok January 25, 2013 (Chaiwat Subprasom/Courtesy Reuters).

Yesterday the prominent Thai editor and activist Somyot Prueksakasemsuk was sentenced to ten years in jail for publishing articles allegedly offensive to the Thai monarchy, under the draconian lèse majesté laws Thailand has in force. Bangkok-based blogger Saksith Saiyasombut has a fine overview of the scene in the courtroom as the judges read out their verdict, to the protests of several hundred observers, including other rights activists. Read more »

Presidential Inbox: Balancing the Pivot with Supporting Human Rights

by Joshua Kurlantzick
President Barack Obama is sworn in for a second term as President of the United States in the Blue Room of the White House in Washington, DC January 20, 2013. President Barack Obama is sworn in for a second term as President of the United States in the Blue Room of the White House in Washington, DC January 20, 2013 (Brendan Smialowski/Courtesy Reuters).

Mr. President, as you start your second term, you have made clear that you will continue the “pivot” to Asia, which includes moving military assets to the Asian theater, bolstering relations with Asian partners, and generally re-establishing the United States as the major Pacific presence. Your new secretary of state, John Kerry, is a longtime advocate of closer ties with mainland Southeast Asia. Within the State Department and Pacific Command, support for the “pivot” is strong as well. Read more »

Sign of the Times? The Middle Class Revolts in Bangkok, Again

by Joshua Kurlantzick
An anti-government protester pushes riot police officers during scuffles near the Government house in Bangkok November 24, 2012. An anti-government protester pushes riot police officers during scuffles near the Government house in Bangkok November 24, 2012 (Damir Sagolj/Courtesy Reuters).

Last month, protestors representing the royalist Pitak Siam group gathered in rally sites across Bangkok to force the ouster of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, accusing her government of acting as a puppet for her fugitive brother, former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. While the number of protesters that ultimately turned out—some 20,000— paled in comparison to the hundreds of thousands of people who came out in 2006 for anti-Thaksin rallies, the protest is nonetheless another troubling development in the political meltdown that has engulfed the country in recent years. Since 2006, Thailand, once a poster child for democratization in the developing world, has undergone a rapid democratic regression. And it is hardly alone. Read more »

Abhisit, Suthep Charged for 2010 Bangkok Violence

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Former Thai prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva arrives at the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) in Bangkok. Former Thai prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva arrives at the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) in Bangkok (Sukree Sukplang/Courtesy Reuters).

This past week, the Thai Department of Special Investigation (DSI) charged former prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and former deputy prime minister Suthep Thaugsuban for authorizing the shooting and killing of protestors in spring 2010, during the worst street violence in Bangkok since 1992. According to the Bangkok Post, the DSI issued these charges since “the pair failed to stop issuing orders to quell the protests when people were killed as a result of the crackdown orders.” But, the Post reported, DSI is not going to bring any charges against soldiers involved in the crackdown. Read more »

Thailand’s Education System Continues to Decline

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Anti-government protesters clash with police near the Government house in Bangkok November 24, 2012. Anti-government protesters clash with police near the Government house in Bangkok November 24, 2012 (Damir Sagolj/Courtesy Reuters).

Amidst all the chaos in Bangkok over the Pitak Siam rally —a group of monarchists opposed to the Yingluck government who were supposed to bring hundreds of thousands of supporters into the streets— another, similarly important piece of news about Thailand’s decline emerged. As it turns out, the Pitak Siam rally was mostly a bust. Only about 20,000 supporters actually turned out to rally sites in Bangkok, a far cry from the hundreds of thousands of people who came out in 2006 for anti-Thaksin rallies that ultimately helped precipitate the 2006 coup. Read more »

Obama Heads to Southeast Asia Amid Regional Tensions

by Joshua Kurlantzick
President Barack Obama waves at the door of Air Force One; The U.S. president will travel to Southeast Asia November 16-21, 2012. President Barack Obama waves at the door of Air Force One; The U.S. president will travel to Southeast Asia November 16-21, 2012 (Romeo Ranoco/Courtesy Reuters).

As President Barack Obama sets off this weekend for a historic trip to Southeast Asia, he arrives at a high point for himself —and a low point for the region. Obama, making his first trip since winning re-election at the polls, will be the first sitting American president to visit Myanmar. The country has undoubtedly embarked upon historic reforms, yet is also embroiled in brutal ethnic violence. Thailand, another stop on Obama’s trip, is bracing for what could be a hugely disruptive leadership succession fight. In Cambodia, he will attend the East Asia Summit, as well as the Summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), an organization in the throes of a crisis. Read more »