Monday, February 26, 2018

An Appeal for International Support (for Thai Democracy) from Jaran Ditapichai

Facebook post by Jaran Ditapichai, Former National Human Rights Commissioner, Thailand
Coordinator, Thai Overseas for Democracy

Thai democracy on hold again.

For Thai observers, predictably as its general election is being delayed again until 2019. Since overthrowing the elected government in 2014, Thailand’s military junta and General-come-Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha have repeatedly used a familiar mix of false promises and outright lies to suppress the Thai people’s right to a vote. The National Legislative Assembly, Thailand’s rubber-stamped parliamentary body appointed by the junta, voted on January 25th to postpone the election by another 90 days after its promulgation in the official gazette. This would mean a vote in late February 2019, but observers think it also can be postponed. Elections were first promised in 2015, only to be delayed as the junta rewrote the nation’s constitution, increasing the military’s tight grip on Thailand’s political institutions. Most recently, General Prayuth Chan-ocha said a poll would be held in November 2018. The Puea Thai Party, whose government the military ousted in 2014, alleges the amendment is a tactic by the junta to tighten its grip on power. In tactical terms, the benefit to delaying the election is simple - it gives the junta more time figure out how to preserve power beyond 2019.

The new constitution gave the military the ability to “manage” politicians, positioning generals as kingmakers even if civilian government does return. Meanwhile, political activity is still outlawed and civil rights are in freefall, with arrests for anti-junta sentiment occurring with increasing regularity. Even more disturbing are the emerging political aspirations of General Prayuth. Having promised a quick return to civilian rule in 2015, it seems that he is now seriously considering retaining the office of the Prime Minister indefinitely.
However, public opinion are increasing against the junta. The Thai people are fed up of lies. In late January and February, a thousand Pro-democracy activists and gathered in a rare show of dissent to protest the authoritarian regime. Considering the latest developments, Thai Overseas for Democracy is calling for the international community to demand that the junta keeps its promise by holding elections in November 2018.

In a most recent development after two demonstrations in late January and February, the Junta served over 100 arrest warrants to the protestors, but the protesters still called for bigger rally in May 19-22 to bring attention to this unwelcome extension of the election date to 2019.

Jaran Ditapichai
Former National Human Rights Commissioner, Thailand
Coordinator, Thai Overseas for Democracy

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