Political Change in Thailand: For a Change without Coup ?

Partyforumseasia:  All over the world, the TV-screens are full of mass movements, antigovernment protests and the all too familiar reactions of the security forces who seem to be only concerned about the security of the powers that pay them. The pictures from Thailand are very different this time. Mass demonstrations in Bangkok and other cities with tens of thousands of students and citizens are demanding that former military coup-leader and now civilian Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha steps down, that  Parliament be dissolved, and the drafting of a new constitution be entrusted to an independent commission. Seeing the ferocious reaction of police and army in Belarus  and similar places, it comes as a surprise that the Thai government reacts with such restraint. Deputy Prime Minister  Prawit Wongsuwon said publicly on Monday that people can stage rallies and express their opinions as long as they do not infringe on the rights of others. He also agreed that the constitution needs amendments.
For the ruling multi-party coalition, which is somewhat stabilized but still fragile, the challenge is enormous. And certainly much of the protest potential comes from the voters and supporters of the Future Forward Party which had won 70 per cent of the first-time voters in the 2019 election but was dissolved by the Constitutional Court a few months later on technical grounds. Obviously the young generation and the students are no longer prepared to accept the still de facto military controlled regime and want change against the coup tradition.
Similarly revolutionary are the calls for reform of the monarchy, without questioning it in principle. And King Vajiralongkorn himself has asked the Prime Minister not to apply the draconian Lese-majesté laws which have been used until recently to intimidate or eliminate opposition figures and critics. That is remarkable because the protesters demand a return to a more independent control of the royal assets and less personal control by the king over substantial parts of the military, the two major changes the king had initiated after his coronation. What the demonstrators want is a constitutional monarchy and a king under the constitution and not above the law.
Seeing clearly that the monarchist counter-demonstrators are a minority, it will be difficult for the Prayut government to defend the military-monarchy cooperation in the long run. Agreeing to a constitutional reform followed by elections would at least buy them time as long as simply stepping down and trusting in the democratic process cannot be expected to be in their DNA. A smooth transition without violence, though, even over a longer period would at last validate the old tourism slogan of Thailand: Smooth as silk.

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