History of Thailand Since 1973 - Democracy

Democracy

The King re-appointed royalist Anand as interim prime minister until elections could be held in September 1992, which brought the Democrat Party under Chuan Leekpai to power, mainly representing the voters of Bangkok and the south. Chuan was a competent administrator who held power until 1995, when he was defeated at elections by a coalition of conservative and provincial parties led by Banharn Silpa-Archa. Tainted by corruption charges from the very beginning, Banharn’s government was forced to call early elections in 1996, in which General Chavalit Yongchaiyudh's New Aspiration Party managed to gain a narrow victory.

Soon after coming into office, Prime Minister Chavalit was confronted by the Asian Financial Crisis in 1997. After coming under strong criticism for his handling of the crisis, Chavilit resigned in November 1997 and Chuan returned to power. Chuan came to an agreement with the International Monetary Fund which stabilised the currency and allowed IMF intervention on Thai economic recovery. In contrast to the country's previous history, the crisis was resolved by civilian rulers under democratic procedures.

During the 2001 election Chuan’s agreement with IMF and use of injection funds to boost the economy were a cause for great debate, whilst Thaksin’s policies appealed to the mass electorate. Thaksin campaigned effectively against the old politics, corruption, organized crime, and drugs. In January 2001 he had a sweeping victory at the polls, winning a larger popular mandate (40%) than any Thai prime minister has ever had in a freely elected National Assembly.

While Thaksin himself owned a large portion of shares in Shin Corporation (formerly Shinawatra Computer and Communications), one of Thailand's major telecommunications companies, he moved his holding to under the names of his servants and driver until his children were old enough to able to hold shares. The shares eventually transferred to family members. The share issue went to court and the court ruled in his favor, acquitting him from the legal clause that a prime minister cannot hold shares. Even though this legally freed him, political opposition parties and many Thai people did not accept the court ruling on this matter.

In power, Thaksin has presided over the rapid recovery of the Thai economy and repaid all debts borrowed from IMF before due time. By 2002 Thailand, and Bangkok in particular, was once again booming. As low-end manufacturing moved to China and other low-wage economies, Thailand moved upscale into more sophisticated manufacturing, both for a rapidly expanding domestic middle class market and for export. Tourism, and particularly sex tourism, also remained a huge revenue earner despite intermittent "social order" campaigns by the government to control the country's nightlife. Thaksin won a majority at elections in February 2005, securing his second consecutive term.

However, Thaksin became one of the most controversial premiers in the democratic Thailand. While he was applauded as an able leader, his critics became more severe. From the very beginning of his power, he was charged with hiding assets. He was 'at war' with journalists. His relationship with Myanmar's junta was also criticized. His policy of 'war on drug' led to the non-judicial killing of thousands 'suspects', inviting critics from human right groups domestically and internationally. Reports of his abuse of power and the conflict of interest were heralded.

In December 2005 media proprietor Sonthi Limthongkul launched an anti-Thaksin campaign, after his news analysis TV program, sharp critic of Thaksin, was removed from the channel. Sondhi's movement was based on accusations of Thaksin's abuse of power, corruption, human right violation, and immorality. Accusations included the improper handling of privatization of PTT and EGAT, the unfairness of the U.S.-Thailand free trade agreement, the corruption in the Suvarnabhumi Airport project, and conflicts of interest due to the Shinawatra family's continued ownership of Shin Corporation.. In January 2006, the Shinawatra family sold its shares in Shin Corporation, but due to a condition in Thai law, they did not have to pay capital gains tax. Although legal, Sonthi, his Peoples Alliance for Democracy, and the opposition claimed that the tax-free sale was immoral. Sonthi and the PAD held mass protests for months. In February 2006 Thaksin responded by calling a snap election in April. The opposition boycotted the elections, causing the Constitutional Court to later nullify the election results. Another election was scheduled for October 2006.

On September 19, 2006, with the prime minister in New York for a meeting of the United Nations General Assembly, Army Commander-in-Chief Lieutenant General Sonthi Boonyaratglin launched a successful coup 'd'etat. The October election was cancelled, the 1997 Constitution was abrograted, some key ministers arrested, and Parliament dissolved. Thaksin's diplomatic passport was cancelled, and he took up exile in the UK. The new constitution was promulgated with junta's support. The general election took place in December 2007.

In a general election on 23 December 2007, the People Power Party led by Samak Sundaravej, Thaksin's loyal, won majority seats in the parliament, and democratic rule was restored.

Read more about this topic:  History Of Thailand Since 1973

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