On Nov. 1, Thailand’s King Vajiralongkorn took the unprecedented step of mingling with monarchist supporters in the center of Bangkok. The king took the occasion to assure TV reporters that “Thailand is the land of compromise.”
He is clearly feeling the heat. For weeks now, hundreds of thousands of young people have been protesting around the country, demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, the ex-general who topped our elected government in a 2014 military coup. But they’ve also been challenging the role of the monarchy, a daring move in a country where criticizing the king can bring harsh punishment.… Seguir leyendo »
Last Thursday, a transgender protester wearing the traditional garb of a queen strutted down a red carpet in a street of central Bangkok. Another protester dressed like a court page — with sneakers — followed her, holding a red umbrella aloft in the style of a royal parasol. A crowd sat on the ground, prostrate, eyes cast down, as is required in the presence of royalty.
For centuries, the kings and queens of Thailand have walked under parasols that are color-coded astrologically. Every planet is associated with both a color and a day of the week, and Thai royals have parasols in the color that represents the day on which they were born.… Seguir leyendo »
The air was filled with excitement and hope as I stood in front of the Education Ministry compound in Bangkok among hundreds of schoolchildren, some as young as 10 and most in school uniforms. They were busy helping one another tie white ribbons in their hair and around their wrists, putting on face masks to both guard their identities and protect themselves against the novel coronavirus, and placing duct tape over the names embroidered on their uniforms. Once they were all ready to go, they lined up on the street and raised their arms in “Hunger Games”-style three-finger salutes.
These children, the new masked faces of political dissent in Thailand, satirically call themselves the “Bad Students” because they refuse to be submissive in the face of what they consider to be arbitrary hierarchy and classroom abuses by teachers and school administrators.… Seguir leyendo »
The volume of methamphetamine seized in the region surged around sevenfold in the five years to 2019.
Billions of dollars are being made each year, and the impact is being felt across the Asia-Pacific region.
The majority of those drugs are from the Golden Triangle, the border region where Myanmar, Laos and Thailand meet.
Myanmar’s Shan State is a particularly important production hub, and in response, Myanmar authorities have conducted major operations against drug labs and complexes in places controlled by independent militias, seizing record amounts of drugs and contraband.
The country’s neighbors are also taking action. Thailand has also tasked paramilitary police and the military to confront traffickers along the country’s northwestern border with Myanmar, and China is trying to stem the flow of drugs from Myanmar into neighboring Yunnan province.… Seguir leyendo »
In late February, the Constitutional Court of Thailand dissolved the Future Forward Party (FFP), the third-largest party in the Thai legislature. University students across the country began protesting, calling on the government to respect their vote and end corruption.
What is the FFP story, and what do students feel about their government? My survey research from earlier this year offers some answers.
The FFP is a relatively young party
Founded just two years ago, FFP quickly grew popular, attracting voters with its strong pro-democracy and anti-corruption stances – as well as the party’s unwillingness to engage in “old-style” politics, such as vote-buying and relying on local magnates.… Seguir leyendo »
At 4:45 a.m. on July 8, a man wearing black and a mask broke into my apartment in Kyoto. He walked into my bedroom, attacked me and my partner with a chemical spray and escaped. Nothing was stolen. The Japanese police arrived quickly. The investigation is ongoing; the perpetrator has not been apprehended.
No official conclusion has been reached about who executed, much less orchestrated, the attack, but it matched a trend of harassment — and sometimes abduction and even killing — targeting anti-monarchist Thai dissidents overseas.
The 2014 military coup against the democratically elected government of Yingluck Shinawatra prompted hundreds of people to flee Thailand and go into exile, especially among supporters of Ms.… Seguir leyendo »
I saw the best and the worst of Thailand during a visit to Bangkok last month.
On the positive side, I met with several Thai human rights activists to hear about their outspoken criticism of the country’s military junta. The dissidents’ courage was inspiring, as the junta has become increasingly intolerant of critical voices since seizing power in a 2014 coup and staging an election this year that proved to be a setup for continued de facto military rule.
One young dissident, whose name we are withholding for her security, told me that she first got involved in protests against the government in 2014, appalled by how democratic rule had been taken away from Thailand by force.… Seguir leyendo »
Thailand’s March 24 elections produced a few surprises — including the success of a new party, the Future Forward Party (FFP). FFP is a left-of-center, liberal democratic party, arguably the first in the country’s recent history. The party has a strong commitment to democracy, and promised to reform the military-backed constitution and reduce the budget of the armed forces.
A young and charismatic billionaire named Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit is the FFP leader. But in the wake of the election, Thailand’s ruling military junta charged Thanathorn with sedition and other offenses related to his alleged support of anti-junta activists in 2015. The case dates to a period when military courts heard cases related to civilians, so Thanathorn is likely to face a military tribunal.… Seguir leyendo »
On the first day of this year — also the first day of the year 2562 in the Thai Buddhist calendar, a time for prayers and divinations — King Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun announced that his coronation would take place in early May. The coronation of a Thai Buddhist king is traditionally the last stage of making him into a thewaracha, a divine monarch. In this case, it will also be something like the last stage of an exorcism.
When King Vajiralongkorn, the 10th monarch in the Chakri dynasty, ascended to the throne in late 2016 following the death of his father, he inherited a nation in chaos.… Seguir leyendo »
When the last members of a youth soccer team trapped in the Tham Luang Cave in northern Thailand were freed on Tuesday, it wasn’t just they who were rescued. For a moment at least, the ruling junta also seemed to escape from criticism of its authoritarian ways.
The successful operation was a rare chance for Thailand’s military rulers — who have been in power since ousting an elected government in 2014 — to present a softer face, compassionate and efficient. The extraordinary rescue was an antidote to the usual accusations that the junta keeps changing its so-called road map to democracy to delay the next election and displays little consideration for basic freedoms or human rights.… Seguir leyendo »
Lorsque le 18 juin, la Thaïlande a procédé à sa première exécution après un moratoire de neuf ans, les réactions internationales varièrent de la consternation silencieuse aux envolées scandalisées. Mais le général Prayuth Chan-ocha, leader versatile du «Conseil national pour la paix et l’ordre» (NCPO), appellation officielle de la junte militaire qui renversa en mai 2014 le premier gouvernement élu du pays, resta de marbre. Prayuth affirma que la peine de mort était «une nécessité», et qu’elle existait pour «garantir la paix nationale et donner des leçons».
Voici les mots de l’homme à qui le président Emmanuel Macron déroulera le tapis rouge au Palais de l’Elysée lundi.… Seguir leyendo »
Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha is visiting Europe this month. On Wednesday, he held talks with British Prime Minister Theresa May in London — to be followed by a stop in Paris on Monday to confer with French President Emmanuel Macron.
Officially, May urged Prayuth to hold “free and fair elections” and to allow political parties to function freely, but it’s clear that the two countries’ desire to boost trade took the upper hand. Let’s hope that Macron will take a tougher line. Such an intervention is urgently needed — even if Thailand’s deepening problems aren’t solely of the prime minister’s making.… Seguir leyendo »
Last week, historian Charnvit Kasetsiri was summoned to a police station in Bangkok. His crime? He shared a Facebook post about a handbag belonging to the wife of Thailand’s military junta leader, General Prayuth Chan-ocha. Under Thailand’s Computer Crimes Act — a national security measure — Charnvit could face years in prison.
How did Thailand, once a flawed democracy, lose its way and become an oppressive authoritarian state that criminalizes dissent?
On May 22, 2014, soldiers in green camouflage fanned out across the leafy streets of Bangkok, Thailand’s capital city. They took control of the airport, government ministries, closed down roads, blacked out television stations and imposed martial law.… Seguir leyendo »
The royal cremation of Thailand’s late King Bhumibol Adulyadej ended with a grand spectacle last month. King Bhumibol passed away on Oct. 13, 2016, ending his 70-year-reign. Now King Vajiralongkorn, Bhumibol’s son, is on the throne. But Vajiralongkorn’s lack of moral authority and his controversial lifestyle — both in sharp contrast to his father — have begun to worry Thais. The stability of the monarchy has long been the key to the stability of Thai politics.
Thailand’s friends have recently started to readjust their policy to cope with the new reign of Vajiralongkorn, which remains highly unpredictable. Japan, one of Thailand’s most crucial allies and economic partners, is also in the process of renewing its ties with the Bangkok monarchy — ties that were rock-solid during the Bhumibol era.… Seguir leyendo »
The royal funeral and cremation ceremony of King Bhumibol this week conclude a year of mourning in Thailand. They also usher in a new era of uncertainty in a country plagued by recurring instability and a polarized political culture.
Thailand’s modern monarchy has been a key source of legitimacy and cohesion. Its revival from an uncertain future after the Second World War was a central achievement of King Bhumibol’s 70-year reign. Through a powerful blend of tradition, divinity and barami (moral charisma), his kingship helped ensure that despite frequent coups, wrenching modernisation and Cold War entanglements, Thailand avoided the sustained mass violence and repression that afflicted most of its neighbours.… Seguir leyendo »
Bhumibol Adulyadej, Thailand’s previous king, will be cremated on Oct. 26 on a grassy patch of land in front of the Grand Palace in central Bangkok. He died a year ago, after a 70-year reign, and he is credited with transforming Thailand into a modern nation-state and unifying the country during times of political turmoil.
An army of royal artists and artisans has built for the occasion an elaborate set of structures that, in Thai Hindu-Buddhist cosmology, symbolizes the mountains, continents and oceans at the edge of the universe. The funeral pyre, precisely 50.49 meters tall, represents Mount Meru, which is thought to connect the human realm to the divine.… Seguir leyendo »
Nigeria: Growing Insecurity on Multiple Fronts
Nigeria is facing a time of uncertainty and peril. President Muhammadu Buhari’s failing health – he has spent more than 110 days battling an undisclosed illness in the UK – is prompting intense manoeuvring regarding who will run for president in 2019, particularly among loyalists and others seeking to preserve Northern rule. The eight-year-old insurgency by the radical Islamist group Boko Haram persists. An older problem, Biafra separatist agitation in the South East, is provoking dangerous domino effects in the north and Niger Delta, while deadly clashes between herders and farmers are escalating across the central belt and spreading southward.… Seguir leyendo »
King Maha Vajiralongkorn signed into force Thailand’s 20th Constitution on Thursday, three months after surprising the military government by requesting revisions to its proposed charter. The text could not go into effect until the king approved it.
Vajiralongkorn, who acceded to the throne just this past December, may be trying to wrest some power from the junta, which ousted a democratically elected government in a coup in 2014. And the Constitution’s promulgation sets in motion a timetable for the next, long-awaited, election, now tentatively scheduled to take place by late 2018. Yet none of that necessarily bodes well for the prospects of democracy.… Seguir leyendo »
Since the arrival of Donald Trump in the White House, U.S. policy toward Southeast Asia has remained uncertain. Leaders around the world have become anxious about whether the United States will continue to engage with the global community or adopt an isolationist foreign policy to please American conservatives.
Amid this anxiety, the U.S. recently announced the launch of this year’s Cobra Gold military exercise, due to begin Tuesday. Cobra Gold has long represented the bedrock of relations between the U.S. and Thailand, which can be traced back to the Cold War period. The exercise, initiated in 1980 and one of the largest in the Asia-Pacific region, involves 13,000 troops from 24 Asian-Pacific countries.… Seguir leyendo »
Following the Thai political crisis that led to two military coups in 2006 and 2014, overthrowing the elected governments of Thaksin and Yingluck Shinawatra respectively, it became evident that the Thai middle class and civil society organizations were not performing as agents of change. Instead they became defenders of the old power while protecting their political interests.
Claiming to safeguard democracy, members of the Bangkok-based middle class staged protests against these governments, which were supposedly tainted by self-interested politicians like Thaksin and Yingluck. In reality, the fear of the Shinawatras and their successful populism designed to empower the rural residents answered why the middle class and civil society rejected their kind of democracy.… Seguir leyendo »