IPPS in last year
THAILAND IN 2014

The last coup dtat in Thailand took place in September 2006 to overthrow Thaksin Shinawatra and democracy was returned after the general election was held in 23 December 2007. For more than a decade under 4 elected government the country was democratically governed until late 2013 when hundreds of thousands citizens successively occupied the streets in Bangkok for 6 months and Thailand encountered another military takeover in 2014.

The incident started on 1 November 2013 shortly after the House of Representatives passed the controversial Amnesty Bill on 4 am of 31 October.
The Draft Amnesty Bill was opposed by the civil society and opposition Democrat Party on its ambiguity meaning and clandestine procedurals. The first draft was meant to grant amnesty to non-leader participants in the numerous rallies and political protests since the 2006 coup. However, when it was read the extra-ordinary subcommittee revised to extend the pardon to:
  1. all leaders and participants in the violence.
  2. all corruption cases brought up in the aftermath of the 2006 coup, and
  3. the time span was extended to cover the period between 2004 until August 2013.

The third inclusion could imply to pardon Thaksin Shinawatra from his two convictions in 2008 and 2010.

The first case, in 2008, the Supreme Courts Criminal Division for Person Holding Political Positions convicted former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra to a 2 years jail term on breaching Articles 100 and 120 of the Organic Act of National Counter Corruption, B.E. 2542 (1999) in facilitating his wife to buy a land from the state owned Bank of Thailands Financial of Institutions Development Fund (FIDF) at a discount price. The purchase took place in 2003 when Thaksin was in position. Thaksin fled before the verdict read and never return to serve his penalty.

The second, in 2010 the same Court ruled the state can seize Baht 46,373,687,454 from Thaksins total frozen bank account Baht 76,621,603,060. The Court found evidence he concealed his ownership of shares in Shin Corp. His action was ruled of breached 4 laws;
  1. Articles 110, 208, 291 and 292 of the 1997 Constitution.
  2. The Cabinet Share Holding Act of 2000,
  3. Articles 4, 5 and 6 of the 1999 Anti-corruption Act, and
  4. Articles 119 and 122 of the Criminal Act.


From 1 November 2013 afternoon, a few thousands of people gathered in Sam Saen Railway station and stayed all night there. Later in the morning, they walked to Ratchdamnern Avenue where two small protestors groups had occupied two adjacent venues for a few weeks. The three groups were joined by people of similar political ideology and the groups of protestors grew days-by-days. Many distinguish speakers took turn daily to give political lectures on the injustice and malfeasance of Yinglucks administration. The three venues became the biggest open political classrooms in the Thai history.

During those 6 months between November 2013 to May 2014 the assembling venues were moved to several places; Ratchdamnern Avenue, Patumwan and Ratchprasong, Lumpini park etc. The main stage, called PRCD (Peoples Democratic Reform Committee) was biggest and the most popular. Every civilian and interest groups were allowed to share their information and political views to the audience. However, the most prominent speaker was former Democrat MP Suthep Thuagsuban and his evening speech was daily broadcasted televised by many satellite TV stations. The most interesting topic was on administrative power corruption particularly on the current state rice pledging program.

On certain occasions Suthep and other core protestors led rallies in many main streets in Bangkok where they were greeted by hundreds of thousands of supporters. During these months they received many hundreds million Baht donation to support the protest. Though the main protest took place in Bangkok, smaller assembling were held in some provinces by the active citizen to demonstrate their strong support by organized similar activities. Ten of thousands took turn to join the protest in Bangkok. Cash and food donation poured into the three Bangkok demonstrations every day.

The protesting goal changed from anti Amnesty Bill to Prime Minister Yingluck and Cabinet resignation and finally to a national reformation. On 9 December 2013, following a few police violently crackdown, Prime Minister Yingluck abruptly dissolved the House and the general election was scheduled on 2 February 2014. Democrat party shortly announced the partys resolution to boycott the election.

Despite of the election announced, the protesters started many anti-election campaigns in Bangkok and also in the southern provinces. Tension escalated into violence after the first fatal victim was killed in the clash in November. He was a Ramkamhaeng University student, one of thousands gathering in the campus to show their disapproval to the Red Shirt activity. The students were attacked at night by gun fires. Following this first violent incident, a total of 20 death and injuries was reported within 4 months from 30 November 2013 to 24 February 2014. The protestors were nightly attacked by ammunitions, gun fire, tear gas as well as police disbandment either on the assembling sites of during their rallies.

The caretaker government applied the Security Law which later overruled by the Emergency Decree. An ad hoc agency, Center for Maintaining of Peace and Order (CMPO), was established to supervise the responsible police force who unable to locate any wrongdoers even though the incident, including an assassination of one core protestor, took place in day time where the on-duty police officers were standing nearby.

The 2 February general election was completely held in 68 provinces and the rest were uncompleted or no polling at all. They included 9 southern provinces where not a single candidate applied. People demanded the country must be REFORM before an election. Mant campaigns were held to disrupt the polling and though they were non-violence, there were a lot of chaotic and blockading.

From a total of 43,024,786 eligible voters, 20,530,359 or 47.42% went to cast their ballots at 83,699 poll stations. Among all ballots casted, 14,645,812 or 71.34% was valid, 2,458,461 or 11.97% invalid and 3,426,080 or 16.69% voted no.

On 24 February, after the violence and polling chaotic, Army chief Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha commented televised that the Army was taking extremely caution to resolve the situation. The government was liable to responsible on all losses and urgently bring the law breakers to justice. He said the Army would not take side, not using force and will perform according to the rule-of-law. He requested all parties to act peacefully and cooperate in providing solutions to the current crisis.

The Civil Court, on 19 February, upheld rights to peaceful demonstration and protest. Since 23 Feb. the pro-Thaksin-pro-government UDD (United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship), also known as Red Shirt, started its first movement. They unveiled the goal to counter 4 groups; PRCD, independent agencies, judicial system and anyone planned to use arm force for a direct or indirect coup. Following this announcement, Courts and independent agencies premises were attacked by many ammunition attacks. The movement of Independent Lanna (Northern provinces) State was first unveiled in Chiangmai to welcome PM Yinglucks visit and though the UDD core leaders finally declined that it was only an ideology, not operation, an anti PRCD stage was set up in the outskirt of Bangkok and ran parallel activities until disbanded by the soldiers on the morning of 23 May after the coup broke out.

Regarding to the uncompleted election polling, the Constitutional Court, on 21 March 2014, ruled by 6 to 3 to nullify the 2 February general election reasoned the voting did not take place in all constituencies on the same day countrywide. The court also ordered the government to co-designate the new election date with the Election Commission.

Referring to the Senate passed the Constitution Amendment Act on the senates composition, the Constitutional Court ruled, on 7 January, it was a violation to the Constitution and on 20th March, the NACC indicted the then senate speaker Nikhom Wairatchpanich and House speaker Somsak Kiatsuranond had misused their authority and in regards to Section 64 of the 1999 Anti-Corruption organic law, they and some parliamentary members were terminated from duties. After the coup, on 30 September, the NACC majority voted to forward the matter to the National Legislative Assembly (NLA). The NLA would decide whether to remove the two speakers, and the other 39 senators who voted to pass the Constitutional Amendment Bill, from positions or not.

Chaotic not only occurred in the urban streets but also on rural highways, too. Since 21 January, many small groups of farmers came together to demand for their payment in the rice pledge scheme. They had pawned their crops with the state Bank of Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives (BAAC) and received debt certificates issued by the Bank. For more than four months, the Bank was unable to pay 3.2 million creditors resulted these farmers had to pawn their credit certificates for cash or sought usury loans to buy fertilizer or paying farm rent.

A total of 4 million of agricultural households had joined the program and 3.2 million have waited for some payment for 4-5 months. It was estimated the total debt might reach 130 billion and problem arose from the unexpected House dissolution that barred the care taker government to acquire new more loans. While the loss from the rice pledge scheme was undisclosed, it was speculated that the loss could exceed 500 billion. The program was started in late 2011 after Yingluck Shinawatra took office. The first budget Baht 500 billion was allocated to the operation agency state owned BAAC. After 2 years of implementation, BAAC was unable to pay its creditors and the caretaker government despairingly attempted to seek loans from private financial institutions. Since the procedure was strongly criticized of widely corrupted operation and malfeasance management, no private sector wanted to get involved. Moreover, the pledging policy was actually a state-buying at higher than actual market prices, therefore, the more selling, the more debt accumulated.

Evidences on G-to-G fraud selling surfaced along with discoveries of enormous expired and rotten rice in the stock was found in the state-rent warehouses led to the buyer countries cancelled their purchases. Million tons of rice was also lost during transport in the provinces.

The rice pledge scheme was terminated after the coup and the junta government appointed a nationwide rice audit team. After the nationwide audit, the team leader ML. Panadda Diskul disclosed only 10 percent of the 18 million tons stockpiles was of good quality and 70 percent was tainted with a yellow color, in bad condition or inedible. By November it was estimated that an overall lost would be between Baht 500 billion to Baht 1 trillion if it takes 10 years to sell the 18 million tons stockpiles.

It was the greatest loss in the Thai history that every taxpayer has to bear the cost.
Yingluck administration was strongly opposed on corruption. In January 2013, the University of Thai Chamber of Commerce disclosed its study done in December 2013 that kickbacks to state officials and politicians, or tea money, had increased to a 26 to 35 percent of the project value and estimated to cost 240 to 330 Billion Baht, equivalent to 9.82 to 13.75 percent of the countrys 2013 public expenditure, or 1.88 to 2.63 percent of annual GDP.

The Office of the Auditor-General (OAG) had 4 times officially alerted the caretaker Prime Minister on the irregularities of the rice pledge scheme and the last one included a recommendation to terminate the program. Three distinguish scholars of Thailand Development Research Institute (TDRI) were consensus that the scheme was the most costly and alternative measures to help the farmers must be found. On 18 February, the National Anti-Corruption Commission unanimously resolved Prime Minister Yingluck was negligent and had refrained from halting the damages upon acknowledgement of irregularities and corruption.

To boost the economy, the Government had sought a new loan totaled Baht 2 trillion for construction of infrastructure in the next 6-7 years. The Bill had very little details as normally required and passed the Parliament since 2013 with an exceptional condition that this loan would be excluded from regular audit by the Finance Ministerial rules and regulations. A petition was lodged to the Constitutional Court and the Court, on 12 March, ruled the loan would become a public budget, must be spent in conform and according to financial laws and fiscal affair regulations, therefore, the enactment was unconstitutional and violated Chapter VIII on Fiscal Affairs, Finance and Budget.

In April, the caretaker Prime Minister and the Election Commission agreed to hold a general election on 20 July but the nation plunged deeply into economic recession. Economic decline continued. State cash deficit increased. Household debt increased. Domestic demand dropped due to the prevailing political unrest and tourism, public sector investment and investors confidentiality also negatively affected from the situation.

Political, social and economic situations seemed to face the same deadlock at April ended.

On 20 May 2014, military chief Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha imposed a martial law nationwide. The law empowers him to exercise this authority. On 21 May, the army invited 5 representatives each from the Senate, Election Commission, caretaker government, Demcrat party, Phue Thai party, PDRC and UDD to a meeting to co-find solution to resolve the situation. Without any single solution, the meeting was re-held on 22 May and no single agreement was reached again. At 16.59 hrs. of 22 May, Gen. Prayuth abrupty announced he would take administrative power and it was a starting point of another coup dtat in Thailand. UDD protestors were asked to disband and all went home safely and the PDRC protestors wholeheartedly dismantled their camps and returned home, too.

The junta called themselves the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) was comprised of military, navy, air force and police chiefs. Their first missions were to approve the suspended 2014 fiscal budget and the BAAC loan for farmers debts.

NCPO undertook reconstruction in 5 major fields; security, economic, legislative, social, and other. On security, military operations uncovered a sabotage plot that led to seizure of ammunitions in many provinces. Offenders were detained and legally prosecuted.

By July 2014, the Interim Constitution was proclaimed and 200 members of the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) appointed. The Interim Constitution has 48 sections and the most significant principle is to have the NLA and National Reform Council (NRC).

In August the NLA nominated Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha to the premiership and he was appointed by HM King Bhumipol on 31 August.

In October, the 200 members of the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) were appointed and later the 250 members of the National Reform Council (NRC) were selected out of 7,700 nominations from public and private non-profit organizations. The NRC functions are to study and provide recommendations for reform in 11 fields;
  1. Politics
  2. Administration of State affairs;
  3. Law and judicial procedure;
  4. Local administration;
  5. Education;
  6. Economy;
  7. Energy;
  8. Public health and environment;
  9. Mass communication
  10. Social;
  11. Others.

In late October, the National Reform Council voted to select the 20 members Constituent Committee to draft the constitution. It seems Thailand is on a full recovery to democratic society.

Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, in a policy statement delivered on 12 September, has addressed the National Legislative Assemble (NLA) that he would work within a timeframe given by the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO). Though the cabinet has no election campaign commitment, the Prime Minister stated his administration would perform duties compliant with the follow policies:
  1. To uphold the monarchy.
  2. To secure domestic functions and strengthen foreign relationships particularly in regards to these area:
    1. ASEAN community.
    2. The southernmost provinces.
    3. International community.
  3. To lessen social disparity and promote accessibility to public services.
  4. To provide education and learning opportunity, religious practice, art and culture.
  5. To increase public health quality.
  6. To reinforce economic potentiality.
  7. To promote national roles and opportunity in the ASEAN community.
  8. To develop and promote the use of scientific technology, research and development, and innovation.
  9. To maintain resources security and balance between conservation and sustainable use.
  10. To promote good governance and suppress corruption and malfeasance in public agencies.
  11. To amend the laws and justice as necessary.
  12. The NLA has resumed its legislative function and passed a few minor laws, the Skill Labor Development Act, the Animal Protection Act, etc. but the two significant ones had only been endorsed by the cabinet. They were the Public Assembly draft bill and the Inheritance draft bill.

The Public Assembly draft bill has objectives are to safeguard and promote citizen and political right to peacefully assembly accordingly to principle of the democratic society. Objectives are to protect citizens right and responsibility in public gathering. However, an assembling manager must be appointed and is obliged to inform the date, time and gathering venue to chief police officer in the area at least 24 hours before the assembly starts. The bill prohibits gathering in certain public area; the government house and state buildings, air, rail and public transport terminals etc.

The Inheritance draft bill which has principle to apply a 10% tax duty on people, excluding religious and public institutions, inherited more than Baht 50 million. A revenue code on living inheritance was also approved and from now on asset of more than Baht 10 million is liable to 5% tax.

Several studies on NCPO popularity were done in the six months after the coup held in late May and the last one revealed on 24th November by Rajabhat Suan Dusit University showed that the Thais satisfaction has continuously declined from 8.82 in the first month, to 8.52 in the fifth month and further to 8.49 in the sixth month. However, the NCPO was still much appreciated on social reorganization; reorder and tidying of the public area.
 


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