While a new reformative government is set to take power in Thailand, the complexities of international relations and domestic aspirations will shape Thailand's political trajectory in the coming years
Many voters expressed dissatisfaction with the Prayut Chan-o-cha administration and demanded greater accountability, transparency, and respect for democratic principles.The election has been meticulously watched both domestically and internationally, given Thailand's complex political dynamics and the desire for a more inclusive and representative government.
To foster transparency and uphold the commitments made during their election campaigns, the parties involved intend to create a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU).However, the role of the Senate in the Thai Parliament is notable, as it serves as a check on the power of the House of Representatives. The Senate is composed of 250 members who are not directly elected by the public. Instead, they are appointed by various institutions and organisations, including the military, judiciary, and professional bodies. This composition has been a subject of debate and criticism, as it has been seen as an avenue for the military to exert influence over the political process. The military's role in the Thai Parliament is particularly evident in the appointment of senators. The 2017 Constitution, which was drafted during a period of military rule, grants the military significant influence over the appointment process. The junta-appointed National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), which governed Thailand between 2014 and 2019, handpicked a portion of the senators. This has raised concerns about the fairness and impartiality of the appointment process, with critics arguing that it undermines the democratic principles of representative governance. While the NCPO was officially disbanded after the inauguration of the new cabinet on July 2019, its discretionary powers were handed over to the Internal Security Operations Command, which is currently chaired by the Prime Minister. Efforts to amend the Constitution and reduce the military's influence have been met with resistance from conservative forces, including those aligned with the military-backed establishment. Despite these challenges, the Opposition parties and pro-democracy activists continue to advocate for constitutional reforms for a more inclusive and representative political system. Whether the new coalition formation will be able to achieve this change will be crucial to watch.
Efforts to amend the Constitution and reduce the military's influence have been met with resistance from conservative forces, including those aligned with the military-backed establishment.Similarly, on the matter of amending the most controversial Section 112 of the Thai Criminal Code, known as lèse-majesté, which includes the provision that individuals who defame, insult, or threaten the monarchy can face imprisonment ranging from 3–15 years without any proper trial or notice, Pita stated that discussions on amending this rule are on the cards. From a foreign policy angle, the inclusion of well-educated and respected leaders like Pita and Srettha in a new government could bring about notable changes for Thailand. These changes may facilitate enhanced bilateral cooperation on crucial issues such as human rights, and climate change, and may help in combatting transnational criminal networks within Thailand. Pheu Thai and MFP have all expressed commitments to invest in Thailand's 5G infrastructure, drive digital and technological adoption in the government sector, and support small and medium enterprises in leveraging the benefits of the digital economy. While Thailand has collaborated with China’s Huawei Technology in this regard, the election results and the potential change in leadership provide a fresh opportunity for the United States and India to collaborate with Thailand in these critical areas and contribute to shaping regional digital frameworks and standards. However, it is important to note that while the promises and intentions of the newly-elected leaders have set the stage for a potential foreign policy shift, the actual implementation and outcomes are yet to be seen. The complexities of international relations, diplomatic considerations, and the balancing of various interests will shape Thailand's foreign policy trajectory in the coming years.
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Sreeparna Banerjee is a Junior Fellow at the Observer Research Foundation Kolkata with the Strategic Studies Programme.Read More +