The Stability of Thailands Wafer-Thin Parliamentary Majority


Partyforumseasia: All over the world, traditionally stable party systems change into a collection of medium and small parties. As a consequence, the formation of governments is getting more complicated and takes more time after the elections. Clear majorities of dominant parties are getting rare, and even the British first-past-the-post election system, which was supposed to create stable majoritarian governments, is not working anymore in the UK itself.
The transition from a military government to a military-dominated coalition in Thailand is an extreme example. Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has pulled all possible triggers to remain at the helm after calling an election which was supposed to start the return to a civilian government. The March 2019 election results were surprising in many ways. The traditional parties, Pheu Thai and the Democrats, lost half of their seats from the last parliament before the military rule. The biggest surprise was the success of the new Future Forward Party which denied Prayut’s new Palang Pracharat Party with only 116 seats and 24% of the vote the chance to form a clear majority coalition. But the former general cobbled together a thin majority nevertheless with the help of the Democrats and a string of smaller parties, altogether 18 of them. In June, Partyforumseasia has already discussed  the research results of Dr. Punchada Sirivunnabood, how public funding has contributed to the mushrooming of small parties in Thailand.

The remarkable part of this difficult coalition formation is that ten small parties most of which have only one elected member of Parliament have joined. And one of them, Mongkolkit Suksintaranont, leader of the Thai Civilised Party, has already left the new coalition on 13 August. That leaves the Prime Minister’s wafer-thin majority at only 253 seats out of 500 and could, in case the erosion continues, make the legislation a gamble.

The first defector’s explanation in front of the media was PM Prayut’s lapse in his oath of office. Freudian or not, he omitted the allegiance to the constitution and apologized in the meantime. But Prayut got away with it so far since the remaining leaders of the micro-parties declared their support as unconditional and lasting.

More democratically-minded commentators, including the leading academic observer, Professor Thitinan Pongsudhirak from the Chulalongkorn University, see the first crack as a sign that the coalition won’t last very long. Their doubts are justified since the Election Commission had interpreted the rules already in a way which first allowed the micro-parties to enter the parliament. But many examples of narrow majority coalitions may teach otherwise. In a big majority, some dissent in policy issues does not matter. But if a coalition is threatened as such and close to losing its grip on power, the survival instinct of the members will prevail and foster cohesion. The spoils of power are much too attractive and will nearly always be stronger arguments than democratic principles. PM Prayut’s new cabinet has 19 ministers and 19 deputy ministers. And concerning incentives to single MPs to toe the government line there are more than enough ways to find a satisfying solution. The growth of the ruling coalitions in Indonesia’s democratic era shows how it works in practice. A commentary in the Bangkok Post on 14 August came with the headline “Tiny parties, giant power”. Rather true, the power to tip the scale comes with a reward and a price, especially in politics and especially in the current politics of Thailand.

The difficult funding of Thailand’s political parties


Partyforumseasia: All political parties of the world need money, and they need more and more money, especially in Southeast Asia. Election campaigns here have become more costly every year because the voters have been sort of spoiled with entertainment, gifts, transportation to rallies, and most important of all, by the opportunity of selling their vote to one of the candidates or even several of them.

Elections with enormous turnovers by vote buying and “donations” to local constituencies are common all over the region, and Thailand played quite an interesting role in this development. A real godfather of money politics was the former Prime Minister Banharn Silpa-archa, who earned the nickname Mr. ATM (automatic teller machine) for his useful skills in channeling big amounts of money at the right time into willing voters’ hands.

The bad reputation of this type of money politics is also creating attempts to reduce or even eradicate it. A newly published research paper of the ISEAS Yussuf Ishak Institute at Singapore by Punchada Sirivunnabood gives an interesting glimpse into the efforts to create some transparency for the party funding. Thailand has already some experience with state funding or party funding with taxpayers’ money. But as usual, good intentions don’t necessarily yield good results.

Punchada shows the trappings of giving money to parties who need much more than they can ever get from this type of programs:

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
Thailand introduced the Political Party Development Fund in 1998 as a means of providing state subsidies for political parties.

Law makers hoped that such financing would be an effective means of curbing illicit fundraising and vote buying. More importantly, subsidization would support small and new parties and promote their organizational development.

The Political Party Development Fund proved a double-edged sword, however. While it provided resources for the development of parties, it also encouraged small parties to set up numerous branches and to increase their membership for the purpose of maximizing their shares of subsidies.

The 2017 Organic Law on Political Parties introduced a new method of allocating Political Party Development Fund subsidies to political parties, with the goal of solving corruption problems associated with the existence of many small parties.

Punchada Sirivunnabood is a Visiting Fellow in the Thailand Studies Programme of the ISEAS –Yusof Ishak Institute

The full text is available under
https://www.iseas.edu.sg/images/pdf/ISEAS_Perspective_2019_50.pdf

For a regional overview see

 

 

Thailand’s Circumstances Part 2


Partyforumseasia: There is widespread unhappiness with the election results and how the military government is handling them. Gaining legitimacy through elections is not easy. Here is a report in Asia Sentinel about alleged massive fraud:
/https://www.asiasentinel.com/politics/report-junta-rigging-thailand-election/

Scathing Report on Junta’s Rigging of Thai Election
May 11, 2019 By John Berthelsen

In 2018, the European Union reluctantly decided to resume relations with Thailand, based on a pledge by the junta that uprooted an elected democracy in 2014, that it would hold free and fair elections.

The farce that took place on March 24 of this year was so comically rigged that any attempt to call the election free and fair has to be met with outright scorn. The fraudulence of the events leading up to the election have only been matched by fraudulence of the events afterward in the junta’s so-far successful gambit to stay in power.

The details can be found in a 32-page report compiled by a newly-created organization named FORSEA, short for Forces of Renewal for Southeast Asia, established by Southeast Asian democrats and rights campaigners committed to making the region more just, fair and democratic. One of the leaders of the organization is former Thai diplomat Pavin Chachavalpongpun, an Asia Sentinel contributor.

The report, titled Fraud, irregularities and dirty tactics: A report on Thailand’s 2019 elections, was released this week. The information was gathered from thousands of submission by outraged Thai citizens who witnessed and reported the fraud over the 10 days March 19-29.

What they found was an astonishing litany of electoral fraud – backed up in the report by voluminous exhibits – including willful publication of incorrect information about party candidates, miscounted ballots, setting up polling stations in unsuitable locations, failing to provide ballots to overseas voters, failure to deliver ballots from overseas, heavy state intimidation of voters, tampering with opposition election posters, pressure by election officers to support pro-junta parties, forcing voters to attend pro-junta party functions, forcing the military to vote, interfering with voters casting their votes and scores of other misuses.

Pro-government parties were allowed to set up posters in front of polling stations, pro-junta parties were allowed to continue campaigning on the eve of elections, opposition parties’ literature and posters were destroyed, there was suspicious funding for pro-junta parties, donation receipts for pro-junta parties were falsified, ballots were improperly transported in private pick-ups and mini-trucks instead of post office vehicles, ballot boxes were improperly secured, broken ballot box locks were found in trash piles, vote-buying was widespread, graveyards were voted along with underage voters, below the age of 18 and therefore ineligible to vote, found their names on the list of eligible voters and voters in pro-opposition areas found their names missing at their registered local polling station, according to CSI LA, an anonymous Thai activist group known for exposing fraud and corruption in the government.

Those election-day misuses were just the start. Even beforehand, Thai Raksa Chart Party, one of the stronger parties and closely affiliated with the Pheu Thai backed by for exiled billionaire Thaksin Shinawatra, was dissolved by order of the Constitutional Court after the party nominated Princess Ubolratana Rajakanya, the daughter of the late King, Bhumibol Adulyadej and sister of the current King, Vajiralongkorn to be premier, a political earthquake that was considered tantamount to handing the election to the opposition. Vajiralongkorn said the entrance of royalty into politics was illegal and forced her to step aside although she had long since renounced her royalty to marry an American commoner.

The election was rigged from the start with a constitution written by the junta to make it virtually impossible for the opposition to govern even if it won a plurality of the votes – which it did. Pro-opposition parties, particularly Pheu Thai and Future Forward, along with a number of smaller parties, won enough of the vote to win the House of Representatives.

Due to the algorithm used to calculate the number of seats won by each party, the Pheu Thai Party, the surrogate for Thaksin, ended up winning the largest number of parliamentary seats with 135, followed by the pro-junta Palang Pracharat, which won 117.

Future Forward, an emerging political party spearheaded by a young billionaire, Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, which has captured the imagination of Thailand’s young and is aligned with the opposition, won 80. The Democrat Party, which has dominated the country’s south and Bangkok, slipped to just 53, and Bhumjaithai, headed by maverick politician Newin Chitchob, won 51.

However, a week after the preliminary results were announced, the Election Commission, which is aligned with the junta, claimed it had discovered mysterious ‘uncounted ballots,’ which meant that all political parties received additional votes that gave the lead to the junta’s Palang Pracharat Party. Despite that, Pheu Thai remained the winner in terms of 137 parliamentary seats, followed by Palang Pracharat, with 118. Future Forward won 87, the Democrat Party, 55; and Bhumjaithai 52.

Although the number of seats meant Pheu Thai Party initially formed a coalition government with Future Forward Party and other, smaller parties, that has been stymied. Palang Pracharat party has claimed the right to set up a government. That has been ratified by King Vajiralongkorn, which is regarded by opponents as an unacceptable intrusion into politics by the royalty.

In any case, even though the opposition might take a majority of the 500 members of the House of Representatives, the 250 Senators appointed by the junta are allowed to vote in a joint session of the two houses of Parliament to select the prime minister, who does not need to be a member of Parliament himself.  Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, the general who engineered the coup that brought down the elected government in 2014, will remain as premier.

The consequences for the Future Forward party are also menacing. Apparently alarmed at the party’s popularity and that of its leader, leader of the party, Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, as well as its Secretary-General, Piyabutr Saengkanokkul, the junta has accused Thanathorn of sedition for allegedly providing assistance to an individual who had led protests against the 2014 coup. Piyabutr has also been charged with allegations of computer crime and contempt of court.

“The charges against Future Forward leaders are meant to send a strong message from the Thai political elites, who appear unwilling to accept the results of the elections,” according to the report. “These elites are therefore searching for extra-parliamentary means to undermine their political opponents.”

Overall, “the information presented in this report exposes the systemic fraud and other irregularities during the 2019 election, pointing to a coordinated and methodical effort to facilitate the victory of pro-junta political forces, the authors write. “These activities completed the efforts of the junta before and after the election to cripple the democratic opposition and maintain control of the country, which this report briefly covers. The election, from its announcement to today, has made a mockery of Thailand’s democratic tradition.”

The organization calls on the Thai people and the international community to “reject the election’s results and call for a real election. The junta sees the election as means to assert its legitimacy while maintain dictatorial control over the country. It is today more crucial than ever that the world does not grant any legitimacy to the military junta.”

 

 

 

 

 

Pomp and Circumstance in Bangkok


Pride, pomp, and circumstance of glorious war
(Shakespeare, Othello, 1616)

Thailand is divided between pomp and circumstance, as is the electorate and the political class. While the elaborate coronation ceremonies of King Rama X fascinated the population, it gave more time for the formation of a new government behind the royal palace scene and the not so glorious war against the opposition and its hope to end the military government of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha.
The splendors of the coronation, including the Buddhist and Brahmin rituals of purifying the king, “symbolizing his transformation from human to the divine”(The Nation), are hiding for a while the political shortcomings of Thailand’s planned return to a civilian government.

If the timing and coordination of the two events have been planned by the outgoing government of Prime Minister Prayut, it can only be called politically astute and clever, at least from an unemotional perspective outside the country. For the internal critics of the military regime, who had hoped that the election on 24 March would pave the way for a civilian democratic government, the disillusion must be immense.

The not unexpected bombshell:

With the announcement of the party list seats, the element of proportional representation, by the Election Commission, the remaining dreams of an opposition government look futile. With a couple of manipulations, the scale is tipping in favor of the military by a mere eight seats, 253 to 245. And with the additional votes of the handpicked senators, Prime Minister Prayut can be assured of his re-eletion.

Despite the careful planning and several pre-emptive interventions by the Prayut government, the “Thaksinist” Pheu Thai is the biggest party, followed by the Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP), the political vehicle of the military government, which fared better than expected in the constituency votes but remained far short of a majority. The Democrat Party, the oldest party in Thailand, dreaming of winning a hundred seats, came out with only 33 plus 19 list mandates. Its tactical approach during the campaign, to join the opposition camp, may explain the bitter losses. Chairman Abhisit Vejjajiva, a  former Prime Minister, has resigned immediately. What the new leadership, to be elected shortly, will decide, whether to join the military or not, remains to be seen. Together with the 51 MPs of the Bhumjaithai Party, they would be the preferred coalition partners for the PPRP. Wednesday’s Bangkok Post quotes a PPRP source that Bhumjaithai and Democrats have been offered six cabinet post each, and Chartthaipattana two.

The unexpected spoiler is the young Future Forward Party (FFP) with its leader Thanatorn Juanroongruangkit, who managed to convince over 6 million voters, especially from the younger generation. With 30 direct mandates and 50 party list seats, FFP might have been the kingmaker and enable the opposition to prevail over the pro-military camp. The immediate consequence was a move to disqualify Thanatorn for violating the candidacy requirements. The EC says that he still held 675,000 shares in a media company. He says that he transferred them to his mother before the registration and that he can prove it, the case is pending. But a Bangkok Post comment came with the headline: “The Empire strikes back in Game of Thanathorn”… The English language newspapers, The Nation and Bangkok Post, are rather outspoken critics of the National Council for Peace and Order’s (NCPO) cynical moves against the maverick.

A surprise is the allocation of one seat each to 12 small parties which did not reach the minimum number of votes, yet another point of contention and upcoming legal challenges.

Finally, coming Friday, May 10th, the government will announce the list of the 250 hand-picked Senators and send it to the King for approval. A new finesse of the electoral law is the fact that the new Prime Minister will be elected by the 500 strong Parliament and the 250 Senators together. This model is functioning quite well in Germany for the election of the president, with the difference, though, that the second chamber (Bundesrat) is the elected representation of the 16 federal states and not appointed by the government of the day. But appointed senators are a tradition in Thailand. Legal battles may continue for a while but Election Commission and even the Constitutional Court have lost the trust of the anti-military camp who doubt their impartiality.

The carefully crafted and rather complicated voting and parliamentary system has not guaranteed Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha’s re-election automatically. Many voters seem to have opted for him for fear of more turmoil with fragile party coalitions on the anti-military side. But the upcoming coalition may be as fragile itself. One positive point for the Prayut government is the successful royal transition for which many pundits had predicted problems up to civil war because of the  image difference between the late King Bhumibhol and his son. Now, officially enthroned, King Vajiralongkorn or Rama X has “swept away the hearts of his subjects” (The Nation and Bangkok Post, which both spike their copies with congratulatory adverts and “long live the king” devotion). May Thailand glide safely through the next phase of her destiny like the royal barge on the Chao Phraya river:

No Royal Prime Minister for Thailand!


Partyforumseasia: Was it a PR-coup and a calculated provocation of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha or simply a miscalculation? With obviously launched rumors that the just three months old Thai Raksa Chart Party was going to nominate a very important person as its nominee for Prime Bolratana 2Minister in the upcoming election on 24th March, the media attention was guaranteed. The bombshell exploded on the last possible date for the nomination last Friday, February 8, when Thai Raksa Chart’s leader Preechapol Pongpanit opened a brown envelope and presented as a nominee the former princess Ubolratana Rajakanya Sirivadhana Barnavadi, the elder sister (67 years old) of King Maha Vajiralongkorn. Royal Prime Ministers are rare, but Bulgaria’s former king, Simeon II, was PM from 2001 to 2004, and Prince Norodom Sihanouk of Cambodia from 1955 to 1960. 

The political bombshell of Princess Ubolratana’s candidacy was the clash in Thai politics between the royalist and military camp and the still strong lingering support for ousted PM Thaksin Shinawatra. Thaksin, PM from 2001 to 2006, perfected money politics and secured faithful voters in the rural areas as the first Bangkok politician to take care of them. Multi-ethnic Thailand has more than 50% dialect speaking minorities which are sensitive to official neglect and reduced job opportunities. They were the key to Thaksin’s stunning electoral successes and the popularity of the serial re-incarnations of his original Thai Rak Thai party.

A special feature in the ongoing election campaign is the split of the Thaksin party reincarnations. It is a strategic move of his followers to maximize their chances in the new electoral system which is clipping the wings of bigger parties. Thai Raksa Chart is fielding 175 candidates, and many bigwigs of the other Thaksinite Pheu Thai Party have joined.

The coup triumph with the royal top candidate was short-lived. The King intervened within the day and declared his elder sister’s candidacy as highly inappropriate and even unconstitutional since she is still considered a part of the royal family though she renounced her title decades ago when she married an American. But divorced and back in Thailand, she has participated in royal ceremonial functions. A singer and TV presenter, she is also popular for chairing and promoting charities. But she is not known for any special qualifications in politics.

As a result of this highly theatrical political episode, the future of the Thai Raksa Chart Party may be threatened by dissolution. As a failed coup, if Thaksin has been behind, it will definitely push the candidacy of former general Prayut, the incumbent Prime Minister.

 

Thailand: Ex-Premier Yingluck Shinawatra follows her Brother into Self-Exile


Partyforumseasia: Yingluck Shinawatra, the 28th Prime Minister of Thailand since August 2011, was ousted in May 2014 by the Constitutional Court. She was accused of abuse of power for replacing the national security chief by a supporter of her Puea Thai party back in 2011. In the same month of May 2014, not exactly by coincidence, the Thai military intervened and replaced the democratically elected Puea Thai government by a junta under retired general and now Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha. Unlike her brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, who was Thailand’s 23d prime minister from 2001, and ousted in 2006, Yingluck continued to stay in the country. The first female prime minister of the country and probably the most beautiful and photogenic one of our times, still commands a huge popularity and political support, especially among the main electoral target group of her party, the poor farming communities in the North and Northeast. The Puea Thai Party is a re-incarnation of her brother Thaksin’s creation, the Thai Rak Thai Party which was dissolved in 2007 after the 2006 military coup, and of the People’s Power Party, dissolved in 2008, which had replaced the Thai Rak Thai Party.
Accused of negligence in handling her government’s multi-billion dollar rice buying scheme, introduced already by her brother, Yingluck could have been jailed for up to 10 years. The program was extremely popular with poor rice farmers, but buying the paddy well above the market rates turned out to be very costly for the government.
In a separate but related case, the court sentenced the former commerce minister Boonsong Teriyapirom to 42 years in jail for faking a government-to-government sale deal involving rice from the 18 million ton state stockpiles.

Though under close supervision by the security forces, Mrs. Yingluck managed to leave the country on Wednesday, 23d or Thursday, 24th of August. Her absence may be an advantage for the military government which does not have to deal with a martyr in prison. Yingluck is supposed to join her brother in his self-exile in Dubai. His and her assets in Thailand are frozen by the junta, but the family clan seems to have enough money abroad to fund and maintain their massive influence on Thailand’s politics.

In a regional perspective, getting rid or disposing of political rivals is often executed with the legendary iron fist but not with a velvet glove, even if the judiciary up to the constitutional court is involved. The most striking example may be the “disposal” of former finance and deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim in neighbouring Malaysia. Anwar was convicted of sodomy already under prime minister Mahathir in 1998, and again with the same accusation under prime minister Najib Razak in 2008 when his political charisma as opposition leader threatened the ruling coalition. Both convictions left a number of doubts and open questions, but were highly effective in neutralizing the rival.

 

Thailand: Which Election System Under A New Constitution?


Partyforumseasia: Thailand is holding some dubious world records, namely the number of military coups and the number of constitutions. Since the end of the absolute monarchy in 1932, the average life span of a constitution was about four years. The military government under general-prime minister Prayuth Chan-ocha gave up on the Prayuthlast draft after nine months of gestation under rejection pressure from practically all political parties. The most controversial among the 285 articles was the creation of a so called National Strategic Reform and Reconciliation Committee (NSRRC) with the commanders of all the military services and the police and sweeping powers to interfere even after successful elections and the establishment of civilian government. Abandoning the draft constitution extends the military rule through mid 2017.
Meanwhile, the discussions within the new drafting committee (CDC) may give some clues about what the generals want to avoid. Last week a panel of the CDC was discussing the future electoral system and the Mixed-Member Proportional (MMP) system which was part of the rejected draft constitution. The proponents and supporters had studied the German system which works well for decades now. It gives two votes to the voters, one for a candidate and one for a party of his preference. One argument against its adoption  was that it would necessitate an electronic system not available so fast  in Thailand, which it does not have in Germany either, though. The system was seen as a safeguard against one-party rule and favoring coalition governments and smaller parties. For the generals, meanwhile, coalition governments with possibly a multitude of small parties may seem too weak to reconcile the country and push for consolidating necessary reforms.
A viable reform of Thailand’s democratic institutions hits the ceiling of decades of wrong developments. This was openly addressed by Sombat Thamrongthanyawong, former chairman of the political reform committee under the now-defunct National Reform Council, by saying that the major challenge to the Thai system was that most of the MPs came to power through election fraud. Century-old patterns of leadership in the social structures have undermined the establishment of really free and fair elections and advanced the continuous proliferation of vote buying and violent intimidation of voters. THB donationsThe collusion between dubious local business elites („chao pho“) who enjoy profitable concessions and monopolies which often cover partially unlawful activities on one side and politicians, bureaucrats, police and military on the other side as well as more and more „chao pho“ in parliament themselves. The system has been “perfected” over the last few decades by a variety of vote canvassers („hua khanaen“) on local, provincial and regional level who sort of guarantee a mandate to the candidate who offers the best price. To be fair, it must be mentioned that Thailand is not the only country in the region with this problem, among others Indonesia can compete on that level.
The ongoing political uncertainty is aggravated by another major uncertainty, the pending royal succession. But it is not excluded that the military may have a better chance to control the transformation than any unstable coalition government.

For a detailed overview on Thailand’s party politics see: Dusadeeisariyakul, Pimrapaat, Stability and Performance of Political Parties in Thailand
in: Sachsenröder, Wolfgang (ed.), Party Politics in Southeast Asia, Singapore 2014
Available at Amazon, at Barnes & Noble also as e-book
Book at Barnes & Noble incl E-Book

Thailand’s Dilemma – Coherently Explained


Partyforumseasia: Thailand’s dilemma is certainly caused by severe elite failure. But it is difficult to decide whether Thaksin and his allies or the Bangkok elite and the Democrat Party are more to blame for the frightening cleavage dividing north and south and the society at large. Under the headline The Story of Thaksin Shinawatra  British journalist Richard Lloyd Parry draws the longer lines of the political impasse which help to understand the developments during the last months.
See his conclusion here:
“Many people bear responsibility for Thailand‘s divisions, prominent among them Thaksin, who must dearly wish that he had rubbed his enemies‘ noses in it a bit less gleefully during his years in office. ThaksinBut the suave villainy of the Democrat Party, and of men like Abhisit and Korn, is insufficiently recognised. They understand how democratic opposition works, and how defeat, over time, strengthens losing parties, by purging them of what is unrealistic and superfluous, and forcing them into congruence with the aspirations of voters. Twice they have had the opportunity to reject military force and to insist on the primacy of elections; twice they have held the generals‘ coats for them, and watched civil rights being trampled on, in the hope of gaining some respite from their own chronic unelectability. The Democrat Party‘s leaders – young, attractive and cosmopolitan could have positioned themselves as mediators between a corrupt, complacent old elite and a corrupt, arrogant new power. Instead, they chose their natural side in the class war, and achieved the feat of losing the moral high ground to a man such as Thaksin. Their responsibility, and their disgrace, are very great.”                 London Review of Books, 6 June 2014   Link here:
http://www.lrb.co.uk/v36/n12/richard-lloydparry/the-story-of-thaksin-shinawatra

Partyforumseasia is notoriously optimistic about regional politics, but Lloyd Parry’s comment on the possibility of a North-South civil war reminds us of an earlier post on this blog which tried to wrap a warning into (hopefully!!) gross exaggeration.

WorldNewsAgency-WNA-WorldNewsAgency-WNA-WorldNewsAgency-WNA-WorldNe
15 February 2064:
The Southeast Asian Miracle: Thailand’s Re-Unification sealed!!
After the recent breakthrough in prolonged negotiations between the two sides and efficient diplomatic support from ASEAN, the heads of state of the Kingdom of Tightland (formerly known as South Thailand) and the Kingdom of Thaksimania (formerly known as North Thailand) have signed a comprehensive re-unification treaty. The signing ceremony took place in the UN Headquarters in Beijing in the presence of unification advisers from Germany and Korea.
After the former Thailand split in 2015, the founding father of Thaksimania, business-politician Thaksim Shinawatra was soon elected King of Thaksimania. The people loved him because he could fund the government out of his own pocket and reduce the tax burden to a symbolic 5%. This led to a massive migration of the business community from Bangkok and the South to Thaksimania, where they were warmly welcomed by his Majesty on the condition of participating in the funding of his government.
The impact on former South Thailand was more than difficult. The Royal Finance Ministry witnessed a rapidly dwindling inflow of taxes which could not be balanced by the most investment friendly policies worldwide. So the impoverished country succumbed to pressure from Thaksimania to drop the aggressive use of the outdated name of Thailand. To secure a sufficient flow of development aid from the rival in the North, the King agreed to change the official name of the state into Tightland. Starting around 2035 already, many countries in Asia were able to reduce or abolish taxes and military spending because the regional security was no longer threatened by the US but guaranteed by China. This ended the decades of saber rattling and aggressive symbolic politics between Tightland and Thaksimania which made the re-unification possible at the end. It remains to be seen how the population of the two nations will adapt to the changes and the big difference in affluence. 😉

Thailand’s Politicians: Pluto- or Kleptocrats?


Partyforumseasia: In the case of Thaksin Shinawatra there has been little doubt that he made his billions with the help of political connections. And comparative research on party financing in Southeast Asia has shown that political entrepreneurship is one of the most lucrative business lines.1) The region, more or less independent of the political system, is full of “unusually rich” politicians. Corruption 4The Thai situation is being discussed in an article by Tan Hui Yee, Thailand correspondent of Singapore’s Straits Times (25.2.2014, p. A22). With a Gini coefficient of .484, higher than that of the US, Thailand is one of the most unequal societies in Asia. The regional imbalance has opened the flood gates for populist policies and the landslide victories of Thaksin’s political parties. According to Chulalongkorn University’s economy professor Pasuk Phongpaichit the minimal taxes on land are not being adjusted because most politicians are big land owners.  As protest leader Suthep Thaungsuban, himself confronted by graft allegations, tries to hurt the business empire of the Shinawatra clan, it is evident for the Thai citizens that too many politicians are millionaires in a too conspicuous way, and there seems to be no difference between the competing parties. Frustration and cynicism are growing with the number of scandals, the duration of the stand-off and the negative impact on the economy.
Money politics is all too entrenched in Thailand and Southeast Asia to be eradicated by well-intentioned reforms. Only rich enough candidates can win an election, and few will sacrifice part of their assets to get elected. That simply means that millions invested into an election campaign have to be recouped one way or the other.

1) See: Sachsenröder, Wolfgang, Party Finances and Money Politics in Southeast Asia in the reference archive.

De-mock-racy or Demo-crazy? Political Brinkmanship in Thailand


SuthepPartyforumseasia observes with sadness the ongoing political drama in Thailand. Obviously former Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban from the Democrat Party tries to topple the Yingluck government at any cost for the country. By increasing the regional division between the predominantly Democrat controlled South and the overwhelmingly Puea Thai leaning North as well as between Bangkok and the rural majority he plays with fire. And by whipping up political passions hitherto unknown in the country, the future governability of a nation of 70 million people will be at risk. Many internal analysts speak already of the threat of a civil war, the spreading violence between the groups already being frightening enough.
PM Yingluck Shinawatra and Puea Thai, according to all polls, will win the February 2 election, if it materializes. This dominance over the ballot boxes can be seen as engineered by risky populist policies like cheap (30 THB) health care for the poor and rice subsidies for farmers which cost hundreds of billions and are not sustainable even medium term.
But Suthep and his supporters in the Democrat Party will be held responsible for the damage they risk to do to Thailand’s democratic and economic  development and the country’s future governability. 

Scholarly Papers on Thai Politics: New Publication by Michael H. Nelson


Link: Nelson, Thailand’s election system Partyforumseasia:  Recommended reading:

The Attempt to Adopt a Mixed-Member Proportional Election System in Thailand: The Near Miss of the Constitution Drafting Committee and Constitution Drafting Assembly in 2007, by

Available at: Academia.edu
and Contemporary Southeast Asian Dynamics, Working Paper Series No. 11, ISSN 2191-169X, Lehrstuhl für Südostasienkunde, University of Passau, Germany

 

Political Science Papers Thailand: New Paper on Democrat and Phuea Thai Party by Michael H. Nelson


Nelson, Democrat and Phuea Thai

Partyforumseasia: Is Thaksin Shinawatra indirectly back in the driver’s seat, just using his sister Yingluck as facade? An in-depth study by Michael H.Nelson from Walailak University.