Asia Minute: Thailand’s Military Rule Continues
In the spring of last year, a military coup led to a change of government in Thailand. As we wrap up our “Following Up” series this week, HPR’s Bill Dorman has an update in today’s Asia Minute.
Thailand’s been through a dozen military coups in a little more than 80 years since the abolition of the absolute monarchy.
Democracy has had its own complications in Thailand. The last elected Prime Minister, Yingluck Shinawatra, was removed from office last year by the Constitutional Court--on charges of corruption. Weeks after that, the military seized control of the government and maintains that control today.
Human Rights Watch says the country is in a “human rights crisis”—adding “the junta has prosecuted hundreds of its critics in military courts, engaged in widespread censorship, blocked more than 200 websites, and banned public gatherings of more than five people.” This has put the United States is in a tricky position. The State Department’s fact sheet on Thailand notes that “The United States has urged the early restoration of civilian rule and return to democracy through elections.”
But it also goes on to say that “Thailand is a key U.S. security ally in Asia, and the country’s stability and growth are important to the maintenance of peace in the region.” So annual joint military exercises with Thailand have continued—although they’ve been scaled back.
One factor to watch when it comes to Thailand’s future: the health of the king—a uniting figure who’s been on the throne for nearly seventy years and who’s approaching his 88th birthday.