Turmoil in Thailand

by AMBER KELLY Photographer

In Thailand, there is currently a tug-of-war over power between the citizens and the government. For decades, Thailand’s government has been on shaky ground with no real philosophy on how to govern its people.

Before 1932, Thailand was controlled by an absolute monarchy with no legislative sector. However, it was in 1932 that a constitution was constructed and signed by King Prajadhipok, which effectively created Thailand’s first legislature called the People’s Assembly. Since that year of reform, Thailand has had over a dozen different constitutions drafted and signed into law.

“That seems like a lot of constitutions for one country to have. I mean, America has only ever had 1 constitution since it gained independence from Britain, and although we have made amendments to it, it has always stayed in place. If Thailand constantly changes their constitution, I don’t know how strong their country’s framework can really be,” says sophomore Erin Seppi.

Currently, Thailand has a constitutional monarchy. Similar to Britain, Thailand has a Prime Minister who is the head of government, alongside a monarch who is the head of state. Due to the 1932 Constitution, the hereditary monarch, while it still exists to an extent, has lost some of its power.

Before reaching a somewhat steady constitutional monarchy, citizens of Thailand experienced various dictatorships that they were not happy with. It was in 1997 when Thailand’s government began to model America’s. This constitution was labeled the “People’s Constitution”, and it was this document that created a bicameral legislature with a House of Representatives and a Senate.

For the first time in Thailand’s history, government officials, at least in these two houses, were directly elected; therefore, the people had more of a say in who ran their government.

The 2001 election was the first election under the 1997 Constitution, and Thai Rak Thai Party’s Thaksin Shinawatra took power. While this election was praised as being corruption free, future elections experienced corruption similar to that of the past.

In 2006, there was a military coup that easily dissolved the government and created a new constitution, just in time for the 2007 general election.

From 2008-2010, Thailand experienced country-wide turmoil. Throughout these years, citizens displeased with the government protested in the streets and blocked the entrance into government buildings. In one protest by the Red Shirts, there were 87 deaths with over one thousand injured. After all of this discord, the Pheu Thai Party’s Yingluck Shinawatra won in the 2011 general election, becoming Thailand’s Prime Minister.

“Thailand seems to have a lot of problems with their government. They just don’t know what government suits them best, and the fact that they’ve had violent protests is really bad. Hopefully, they have finally settled on a government they like,” says senior Lucia Fernandez.

In November 2013, some Thailand citizens began anti-government protests, while the Red Shirts began pro-government protests. Much of this discord came about because of an amnesty bill and constitutional amendments that were being debated in the House of Representatives.

People have also gotten angry because the Pheu Thai Party has disregarded rulings made by the Constitutional Court on said amnesty bill and amendments. There are still protests going on today, with the tensions between the government and the people increasing every day.

What type of government do you think Thailand should have?

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