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Session Submission Type: Roundtable Proposal Application
On 22 May 2014, the Thai military staged a coup overthrowing the elected government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. Among many reasons used to legitimize the coup, the Thai military claimed, once again, to cleanse Thai politics and to eliminate “immoral politicians”. History seemed to repeat itself as eight years earlier, the military exploited to same justifications to topple the Thaksin Shinawatra regime (Thaksin is older brother of Yingluck). Characterizing themselves as “good people”, the military and its supporters endorsed the coup in 2006 based on their self-defined moral ground. Thus, “good people” staged a “good coup”.
But as it was unfolded, not only did the 2006 coup fail to fix the political problems, it deepened the polarization of Thai society. That supposedly “good coup” had “gone bad”. This led to a question today if the coup of 2014 would dangerously turn out to be a “bad coup” that has gone “worse”.
Since the military government of General Prayuth Chan-ocha has assumed political power, the democratic space in Thailand disappeared. Human rights have been grossly abused. Politicians, political activists, and academics have been summoned to have their “attitude adjusted”. The surge of lèse-majesté cases has been evident. Meanwhile, the so-called political reforms, as promised by the coup makers, have become a hollow discourse. The failure of the first draft of the constitution, initiated by the military, already helps prolong the life of the Prayuth regime. Thailand seems to have fallen deeper into a dark hole.
All these are occurring at the critical royal transitional period. True, it is still debatable if the coup was undertook primarily for the military to take charge of the royal succession, which could become unpredictable. But one cannot deny the fact that the monarchy itself has long played an important role in the political domain. And now at the twilight of King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s reign, anxiety of the nation’s uncertain future without the charismatic king is palpable and could further complicate the Thai crisis.
This roundtable will discuss two key areas: what has happened since the coup of May 2014 and what will be the future direction of Thailand, particularly in the post-Bhumibol era. The roundtable consists of distinguished experts on Thai politics whose intellect will undoubtedly enlighten discussions on the ongoing political troubles Thailand is encountering today and in the future.