Thai Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin and members of his cabinet in Bangkok, Thailand, September 2023. Athit Perawongmetha / Reuters

In early September, Bangkok witnessed an odiferous spectacle. Kneeling on a white mat and dressed in a full hazmat suit and gas mask, Duangrit Bunnag, a prominent Thai architect and public commentator, invited onlookers to pelt him with cow dung. Many of them obliged, allowing Duangrit to fulfill a promise that he had not expected to have to keep. Earlier this year, he had pledged to his followers on social media that if his preferred political party, Pheu Thai, forged an alliance with one of Thailand’s military-backed parties, he would subject himself to this scatological ordeal. Much to his surprise (and likely horror), Pheu Thai did just that over the summer, reneging on commitments the party had made ahead of elections in the spring.…  Seguir leyendo »

A pro-democracy protester holding up a three-finger salute during a demonstration calling on Thailand’s senators to respect the result of the May 14 general election, in Bangkok on July 29.Credit...Jack Taylor/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

For a brief time this summer, it seemed like Thailand might finally be on the cusp of truly representative government.

In elections in May, a pro-reform party won the largest share of votes, riding a wave of public discontent over nine years of military rule and the outsize prerogatives enjoyed by the Thai royal family. Thailand’s monarchy is one of the wealthiest and longest-reigning in the world. Backed by the military and the judiciary, it is the linchpin of a conservative establishment that has fought off challenges to its dominance for decades, often with royally-endorsed military coups that overthrew democratically elected governments.…  Seguir leyendo »

Pita Limjaroenrat, the leader of the Move Forward party, in Bangkok, May 2023. Athit Perawongmetha / Reuters

Thailand’s parliamentary elections in May were expected to offer a rebuke to the ruling government, but instead they delivered an outright repudiation. Over 70 parties competed in this historic election in which over 75 percent of eligible voters went to the polls. They expressed their exasperation with the current government of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, whose party obtained a meager seven percent of votes cast. By contrast, well over half the votes in this country of 71 million people went to two opposition parties: Move Forward, the new incarnation of the Future Forward party helmed by the young leader Pita Limjaroenrat, and Pheu Thai, the populist party associated with former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.…  Seguir leyendo »

Relatives mourn a day laborer who was shot during an anti-coup protest on the outskirts of Yangon, Myanmar. A poster of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the nation’s deposed de factor leader, hangs in the background. Credit Panos Pictures/Redux

Nearly three months after the military coup in Myanmar, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations will finally host an emergency summit in Jakarta, Indonesia, on Saturday to discuss the crisis. Expectations for any breakthrough are low.

Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, Myanmar’s commander in chief and the leader of the coup on Feb. 1, is expected to attend the meeting (his first known trip abroad since the takeover). But the newly formed, self-proclaimed national unity government of Myanmar, a group of deposed legislators, has not been invited, prompting some analysts and human rights groups to argue that ASEAN tacitly is legitimizing the military government.…  Seguir leyendo »

A Buddhist monk walks with pro-democracy protesters as they carry large inflatable ducks during a march to the 11th Infantry Regiment as part of an anti-government rally in Bangkok on 29 November 2020. Jack TAYLOR / AFP

At a small, rain-soaked pro-democracy rally in Thailand’s north-eastern city of Nakhorn Ratchasima in early October, three young women staged a performance entitled “Who Killed the People?” Appearing first as a trio of anonymous figures bound together by tangled cords, through silent dance and mime their roles emerged: monarch, military and people. In the play’s denouement, “the military” killed “the people” – invoking the massacres of pro-democracy protesters in 1973, 1976, 1992 and 2010 – while the third character struck a regal pose and waved to the crowd. The “monarch” then wrapped the corpse in a Thai flag and deposited her among the audience.…  Seguir leyendo »

King Bhumibol Adulyadej, right, Queen Sirikit and Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn in December 2000 during festivities in Bangkok for the king’s 73rd birthday. Credit Pornchai Kittiwongsakul/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Several thousand people dressed in yellow or pink, colors associated with the royal family of Thailand, gathered along the road to the Grand Palace in Bangkok on Saturday to celebrate the birthday of King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who died in 2016.

Many more people have gathered at recent protests to call for the monarchy’s reform.

Last week a demonstration was supposed to take place outside the majestic yellow building that houses the Crown Property Bureau, the agency that manages the Thai royal family’s colossal fortune. In 2018, the current king and Bhumibol’s son, Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun, claimed direct, personal control over those assets, estimated at $30 billion to $60 billion.…  Seguir leyendo »

Panorámica de Bangkok, capital de Tailandia. Foto: Braden Jarvis (@jarvisphoto)

Tema 1

En el año en que se ha celebrado el 150 aniversario del establecimiento de relaciones entre España y Tailandia, este análisis se pregunta hasta qué punto es posible impulsar un cambio cualitativo en los vínculos bilaterales.


Las relaciones entre España y Tailandia están lejos de materializar todo su potencial, especialmente en el ámbito económico y cultural. En el marco de la celebración del 150 aniversario del establecimiento de relaciones diplomáticas entre ambos países, este análisis identifica cuáles son las áreas más propicias para potenciar la cooperación bilateral, identifica los factores que pueden condicionar significativamente el devenir de la relación y ofrece algunas recomendaciones para impulsar los vínculos entre ambos países.…  Seguir leyendo »

Pro-democracy protesters outside the Salaya campus of Mahidol University on the outskirts of Bangkok on Thursday. (Jack Taylor/AFP/Getty Images)

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 »

Anti-government protesters and students give a three-finger salute during a demonstration demanding that the government resign in front of the Education Ministry in Bangkok on Sept. 5. (Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters)

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 »

Laos is a missing link in Asia's fight against organized crime

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 »

Future Forward Party (FFP) supporters hold up signs at a pro-democracy rally against the military government at Thammasat University in Bangkok on Feb. 26, 2020. (Lillian Suwanrumpha/Afp Via Getty Images)

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 »

The Case of Thailand’s Disappearing Dissidents

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 »

How Thailand’s Generals Rule by Numbers and the Stars

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 »

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha of Thailand spoke to the press about the rescue process at the Tham Luang Cave last month. Credit Linh Pham/Getty Images

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 King Maha Vajiralongkorn, center, holds a light during Wesaka Bucha, the most important Buddhist holy day of the year, at a temple in Bangkok last month. (The Nation/Pool Photo via AP)

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 »

Thai activists hold a symbolic protest against Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister Prawit Wongsuwan, who has become embroiled in a scandal involving high-end wristwatches, in Bangkok on Tuesday. (Narong Sangnak/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

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 »