Thai military junta facing 'crisis of legitimacy'

Ahead of a much awaited referendum this weekend, the Thai military junta in Thailand is facing a "crisis of legitimacy" and lack of public confidence among its citizens.

Thai military | Photo credit: Press association

By Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at the Parliament Magazine

01 Aug 2016

That is the claim made by Xavier Nuttin, a senior Asia analyst at the European Parliament.

Speaking ahead of the referendum on a draft constitution, Nuttin said that, two years after a military coup that overthrew a democratically elected government, Parliament still had "real" concerns about democratic rule in Thailand.

Similar concerns persist, he said, about declining human rights in the country and the draft constitution Thai people will vote on in a referendum on 7 August.


Nuttin, who recently returned from Thailand where he was part of a fact-finding parliamentary delegation along with eight MEPs, said that Thai people had expected "less corruption, more reforms and less inequality" after the May 2014 coup.

"Sadly," he noted, "there have been very few signs of any of these things happening in the last two years. There is currently a crisis of legitimacy and public confidence in Thailand."

For the past two years Thailand has been ruled by the military who deposed Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. The military promised that they would only be in office for a short time before handing power back to an elected parliament. Following the coup, the EU and US put negotiations with Thailand on hold.

The military have now produced a draft constitution which they intend submitting to a referendum on Sunday.

Nuttin, a long-serving official, said the junta had granted itself the "widest possible powers one can imagine" and that political parties in Thailand were still not allowed to engage in any political activities.

"Thailand is party to international conventions and this is something Parliament finds quite unacceptable," he said.

Life in Thailand, he said, was "still characterised by a polarisation" between different groups and there was "no guarantee" that elections promised for 2017 would be held.

Norachit Sinhaseni, spokesperson of the constitution drafting committee, the junta-appointed body that drafted the charter, said the referendum would still go ahead as planned and elections were pencilled in for July or August next year.

Despite widespread criticism of the draft, he said it had been subject to public consultation involving 500 NGOs, civil society and other organisations.

Thai citizens, he said, would be asked a simple "yes/no" question on whether or not to accept the draft being proposed.

"If it is rejected then my work is done and the government will have to come up with a new constitution," he said.


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