Following the shocking mass shootingin the commercialized northeastern region of Thailand, Twitter trended with the hashtags “#ReformtheMilitary” and “#PrayuthRIP.” This public dissent for the current government reverberates the broken promises of democracy made by military Prime Minister Prayuth. Since Prayuth’s 2014 military coup, the Thai people have seen increasing denial to democracy caused the corroboration of the Monarchy and Military, and the lack of true free and fair elections.
After years of a previous military coup, the March 2014 looked promising for many Thai’s, but led to the military enforced victory of Prayuth Chan-ocha. This quickly led to an overhaul of the constitution which changed how representatives are elected and increased both the power of the executive and military. This is seen as an exercise of authoritarianism, due to Prayuth’s rejection of democratic norms, even though Prayuth promised democracy. However, in the case of Thailand it is an even more lucrative authoritarianism, a stealth authoritarianism, since most of his authoritarian acts have been done through legal loopholes, this has allowed Prayuth and his government to claim legitimacy, these loopholes include increased restrictions against dissidents through libel laws . As well, Prayuth constantly reassured the country that he will restore democracy citing its GDP growth and stability as a way to deflect from his authoritarian policies and actions. Collectively this has led to a hybrid regime defined by a mix of authoritarian and democratic policies and actions . Collectively this has led Thailand to a pseudo-state suspended in a rich history of democracy, and a history of authoritarian military coup governments.
One of the most frightening exploits of Prayuth is his hatred of media, and relentless attacks on dissidents . Pro-Democracy protestors are routinely jailed due to their actions and their leaders are physically attacked by what seem to be government associated hitmen such as the attacks on Sirawith Seritiwatfollowing his public dissent on the 2019 elections which saw Prayuth maintain power, and the legislature filled with military backed representatives. These attacks on prominent dissidentsincreased since the March 2019 elections. Prayuth’s childlike and hotheadedness has led to situations in which he has threatened to execute dissidents and referencing a cardboard cutout of himself to answer media question. These actions were reverberated in Prayuth’s and his militaries lack of command in the recent mass shooting. Through their suffering, the Thai people en masse have publicly expressed on social media their lack of trust of the Military and the ineffectiveness of Prayuth’s regime. This massive response to the shooting could possible serve as a platform for the Thai people to reclaim their rights to democracy.
However, the threat to Thai democracy is not just internal. Thailand is surrounded by states that have never formed democracies. Thai land was a stalwart of democracy, once championed by the US during the Vietnam war. Yet, America’s new foreign policyhas allowed Thai democracy to falter. As explained by Martin Seymour Lipset, it is essential for the survival of a democracy to be surrounded by neighbors which support the democracy, which Thailand lacks . This coupled with America first policy has given Thailand no reason to be democratically accountable. This external ignorance is the root cause of Thai democratic erosion and without external support, Thai’s will continue to see their democracy die.
Due to the nature of Thailand’s current military backed government and the absence of external support, Thai’s have been unable to secure the democracy which they wish to have. That being said, using the globally shocking mass shooting, the Thai people have a catalyze for the political change which they seek.
References Levitsky, Steven & Daniel Ziblatt. 2018. How Democracies Die. New York: Crown.  Varol, Ozan. 2015. “Stealth Authoritarianism.” Iowa Law Review.  Diamond, Larry. 2002. “Thinking About Hybrid Regimes.” Journal of Democracy.  Lipset, Seymour Martin. 1959. “Some Social Requisites of Democracy: Economic Development and Political Legitimacy.” American Political Science Review.
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