Archive for ‘Thailand’

March 22, 2015

Elections won’t solve Thailand’s problems with the US alliance

Economics, Politics and Public Policy in East Asia and the Pacific

Elections won’t solve Thailand’s problems with the US alliance

20 March 2015

Author:Phuong Nguyen,CSIS, Washington
Click on the link to get more news and video from original source:  http://www.eastasiaforum.org/2015/03/20/elections-wont-solve-thailands-problems-with-the-us-alliance/Thailand’s General Prayuth Chan-ocha announced in February that Thailand will hold elections to restore democracy in early 2016. Despite their many efforts to make the case for the military takeover, Prayuth has realised that the military and its supporters will not get off easy with long-time ally the US.

 Thai students display placards as they demonstrate in front of the military court in Bangkok on 16 March 2015. (Photo: AAP)There was speculation earlier that the military was prepared, or at least would have preferred, to stay in power when Thailand’s revered and ailing King Bhumibol Adulyadej passes away. But the junta is now working to prepare for the next election with caveats. The junta is putting in place safeguards that will give it an unprecedented commanding power over an incoming government and brakes on the functions of political parties, democratic institutions and the press.

Military officers seemingly want to be invited to sit in key positions in the next government. The junta has tasked a commission with rewriting the constitution. The latest version suggests the prime minister may be appointed rather than elected in the event of a political crisis and all members of the upper house of parliament may also be unelected.

There is also a real concern about the checks and balances in the next government that comes into power. Authorities continue to suppress the Red Shirts, who have been loyal supporters of Thaksin and Yingluck Shinawatra, two former prime ministers who were deposed in 2006 and early 2014, respectively. Political activities are currently banned, programming of political content is tightly controlled and the press was warned not to criticise the government. And the junta has not shown any intent to lift martial law even during elections.

The military coup that ousted Thaksin in 2006 threw Washington off balance. Many in the US had been optimistic about democratic advances in Thailand since 1997 and the outlook of the US–Thai alliance. Washington called the coup unjustified and suspended military aid.

But in a diplomatic cable then US envoy to Thailand expressed his support for the coup makers. The US reinstated military aid two months after the December 2007 elections, judging that Thailand had restored a democratically elected government. Yet before long the traditional power brokers found a way to sack the then prime minister as well as his successor and dissolve their party for electoral fraud.

The instability in the years that followed did not do any good for the US–Thai relationship. When Yingluck swept to power in the July 2011 elections, officials in Washington and Bangkok thought they at last had a chance to think about ways to reinvigorate the longstanding alliance in the context of the US rebalance to Asia. But that was short-lived. Yingluck’s government headed down the road of its predecessors in the second half of 2013 and early 2014.

Washington will calibrate its response to the next planned election very carefully. The last decade shows that as long as Thais do not have faith in their country’s leaders and institutions, Thailand will remain in crisis mode. As much as Washington recognises that its alliance with Thailand has been adrift, it has become more clear-eyed about the depth of Thailand’s internal issues. Regardless of whether Prayuth will allow elections to go ahead or what the initial outcomes might be, the US is unlikely to risk its reputation by jumping back in prematurely.

US officials have said time and again their country is on the side of the rule of law and democracy in Thailand. The US is relatively confident that the kingdom will ultimately be headed in that direction. But the next election, if it does happen, is likely to take Thailand in the opposite direction. With the looming royal succession, the royalists in business, the military and the traditional Thai elite will jockey for power and position.

Until Thailand comes out of this chaos, Bangkok can expect Washington to pay lip service to the importance of the US–Thai alliance while simultaneously scaling back on key pillars of cooperation between the two countries.

The Thai military considers Thailand’s security alliance with the US one of its most valuable — if not irreplaceable — assets. The junta is fully aware of the further damages it could cause to the alliance. But Prayuth and those close to him perceive now as a critical time in Thailand’s history in which order should be maintained. And this has come to trump everything else. The stakes are extremely high this time. Even Thaksin has kept silent since the 2014 coup.

It could be years into a post-Bhumibol era until Thailand regains equilibrium, if at all. In the meantime the US–Thai alliance will continue to deteriorate further. Washington has made the conscious decision to sit on the margins and affirm its desire to be on the right side of Thai history. But the next election will not decide that history and won’t fix the ills in US–Thai relations.

Phuong Nguyen is a Research Associate at the Sumitro Chair for Southeast Asia Studies, Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington DC.

March 22, 2015

The two faces of Thai authoritarianism

The two faces of Thai authoritarianism

29 September 2014

Author:ThitinanPongsudhirakAuthor:Phuong Nguyen,CSIS, Washington
Click on the link to get more news and video from original source: http://www.eastasiaforum.org/2014/09/29/the-two-faces-of-thai-authoritarianism/Thai politics has completed a dramatic turn from electoral authoritarianism under deposed premier Thaksin Shinawatra in 2001–2006 to a virtual military government under General Prayuth Chan-ocha. These two sides of the authoritarian coin, electoral and military, represent Thailand’s painful learning curve. The most daunting challenge for the country is not to choose one or the other but to create a hybrid that combines electoral sources of legitimacy for democratic rule and some measure of moral authority and integrity often lacked by elected officials.

A decade ago, Thaksin was practically unchallenged in Thailand. He had earlier squeaked through an assets concealment trial on a narrow and questionable vote after nearly winning a majority in the January 2001 election. A consummate politician and former police officer, Thaksin benefited from extensive networks in business and the bureaucracy, including the police and army.

In politics, his Thai Rak Thai party became a juggernaut. It devised a popular policy platform, featuring affordable universal healthcare, debt relief and microcredit schemes. It won over most of the rural electorate and even the majority of Bangkok. Absorbing smaller parties, Thai Rak Thai virtually monopolised party politics in view of a weak opposition.

Thaksin penetrated and controlled supposedly independent agencies aimed at promoting accountability, particularly the Constitutional Court, the Election Commission and the Anti-Corruption Commission. His confidants and loyalists steered these agencies. His cousin became the army’s Commander-in-Chief. His police cohorts were fast-tracked to senior positions, including his brother-in-law, who became national police chief. Similarly, Thaksin’s business allies and associated partners secured plum concessions and choice government procurement projects.

After his landslide victory in February 2005, Thaksin became the first prime minister to be re-elected and to preside over a government composed only of one party. But his virtual monopoly on Thai politics and accompanying hubris inevitably got the better of him. Making a lucrative business out of politics led to his demise in the September 2006 military coup. Thaksin’s rule was democratic on paper but authoritarian in practice.

Yet Thaksin’s legacy is already strong. His subsequent proxy governments in 2008 and 2011–2014, under his sister Yingluck Shinawatra, were politically paralysed by anti-Thaksin street protests. When Yingluck looked poised to complete her term, Thaksin’s Pheu Thai party came up with a blanket amnesty bill that upended her government, assisted by the independent agencies that had turned against Thaksin in the 2006 coup. The putsch on 22 May 2014 was merely the knock-out blow on an ineffectual administration that was not allowed to govern.

Now the pendulum has swung to the other, authoritarian end. General Prayuth now heads a regime with no democratic pretences, ruling with absolute power. His is a military government both on paper and in practice. The tone of the 22 May coup clearly signalled that the military would dominate politics, epitomised by the general himself becoming prime minister.

Prayuth’s allies under the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) have now taken key portfolios relating to the Thai economy and society, foreign affairs and internal security. The structure of power under the NCPO is clear.

Two months after seizing power, the NCPO rolled out an interim constitution and appointed a National Legislative Assembly (NLA). Today the NLA is filled not with business cronies and spouses of politicians but with military classmates and siblings, who in turn chose Prayuth as prime minister. The caretaker prime minister then selected his cabinet, more than one third of which is military. The National Reform Council (NRC) will soon be formed, leading to a constitution-drafting committee, which will be nominated by the NRC, NLA, cabinet and NCPO.

Like a politburo, the NCPO is thus the nexus of this interim governing structure, comprising the NLA, cabinet, and NRC. This monopoly of power is reminiscent of the Thaksin juggernaut a decade ago. It was a parliamentary dictatorship then as it is now. But the fundamental difference is that the current authoritarian period completely bypassed the electorate.

Prayuth enjoys the same immense personal popularity as Thaksin did. His no-nonsense state of the nation speeches have been to the point and delivered in appealing tones. The NCPO’s anti-corruption campaign is popular and would certainly score more points if it dared to aim at higher-up corruption schemes and concessions, not just low-hanging fruits like extortion rackets that run motorcycle taxis and the state lottery.

Prayuth and the NCPO also benefit from the fact that public expectations started from a low base. After six months of anti-government street protests and policy paralysis, the coup was a relief. Everyone had to make do with the coup because there was no initial alternative in the face of continuing martial law. But reality will start to bite as the military-dominated government starts its day-to-day work. The next 14 months of the NCPO’s timetable to return to democratic rule may be long and hard.

The military-backed government faces a tall order dealing with the grievances and expectations of a neglected electorate. Those who spoke out against the political monster that the Thaksin regime eventually became must now be wary of the potential for the military-backed government setting on a similar path. Unaccountable power with absolute authority and direct rule is inadvisable in Thailand. Past experiences in the 1960s, early 1970s and 1991–1992 have shown that such governments eventually end in tears.

Thitinan Pongsudhirak teaches International Political Economy and is Director of the Institute of Security and International Studies at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok.

A version of this article was earlier published here in The Straits Times.

March 22, 2015

Behind Thailand’s coup is a fight over the king and his successor. But it’s hush-hush.

Behind Thailand’s coup is a fight over the king and his successor. But it’s hush-hush.

June 7, 2014

Author:Phuong Nguyen,CSIS, Washington

Click on the link to get more news and video from original source:  http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/behind-thailands-coup-is-a-fight-over-the-king-and-his-successor-but-its-hush-hush/2014/06/05/d0cac579-374c-4671-b418-b8dda46c76ed_story.html


Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej takes pictures during the royal ploughing ceremony in Bangkok. The king has semi-divine status after almost seven decades on the throne. (PORNCHAI KITTIWONGSAKUL/AFP/Getty Images)

It’s hard in Thailand to have a meaningful discussion about the country’s most meaningful institution: the monarchy. Laws ban any criticism of the king. Salacious palace intrigue is off-limits. So is any exploration of what may be the ailing king’s final major decision: his succession.

But it’s the uncertainty over that power hand off that forms the silent backdrop to Thailand’s intensifying political instability.

King Bhumibol Adulyadej has semi-divine status after almost seven decades on the throne, but his son, the crown prince, is far less revered. Many scholars outside Thailand say the political tug of war in Bangkok is really a competition to hold power when the king passes away, a moment when Thailand could have at least a partial power vacuum.

“It’s like a musical chairs game,” said Ernest Bower, an expert on Southeast Asia at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “When the music stops — when the king dies — whoever has power gets to organize the next steps.”

For most of the 20th century, the Thai king was a guarantor of relative political stability — a unifying force amid coups, constitutional changes and bloodshed. When needed, he could call dueling faction leaders before him and chastise them. The bloodshed would stop.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower welcomes Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej and Queen Sirikit to Washington in 1960. (AP)

King Bhumibol Adulyadej, Queen Sirikit, Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn and Princess Ubolratana sit on the steps of Chitralada Palace in 1955. (AP)

This time around, though, the king appears too frail to play such a role and has not been seen publicly since a May 22 coup. The military takeover — endorsed near the end of May by the palace — came after seven months of street protests against the Thai government, which was led at the time by prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra, a member of Thailand’s most divisive political family. Yingluck’s party — which has the critical backing of her older brother Thaksin Shinawatra — remains popular in the rural north but is loathed by elites in Bangkok. Those elites often describe themselves as royalists.

Thaksin-supported candidates have prevailed in every national election since 2001, but in almost every case those leaders have been ousted in dubious judicial rulings or military coups that have the support of the wealthy Bangkok establishment. Those who oppose Thaksin say he has allowed rampant corruption and consolidated power among his family and friends. The most vicious charge of all is that Thaksin so covets power, he poses a threat to the monarchy.

Some experts say that the military could seek to hold power until the king’s death. Thailand’s new military ruler, Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha, has a reputation as a staunch monarchist and has warned that violations of the lèse-majesté law — a broad rule that bans anything offensive against the monarchy — will be heard in military, rather than criminal, courts.

A working king

Thais pay homage to the king in ways both big and small. His face is on every coin and banknote. Massive golden-framed portraits hang in front of office buildings, in restaurants and along highways, portraying different periods in his life. Before viewing movies, Thais stand for a royal anthem. The king is described rarely by name: “His Majesty,” Thais say. The best-selling book in Thai history is a lighthearted biography written by the king about his favorite dog.

Born in Boston, where his father was studying medicine, King Bhumibol inherited the throne at age 19 after the mysterious death of his older brother. He arrived in Thailand at a time when the monarchy’s power appeared in decline. The king managed to reverse this with what Thais viewed as a lifetime of selfless acts. He visited far-flung rural areas wearing common clothes, a camera slung around his neck. He bankrolled thousands of royal projects, many that aimed to help villages improve their agriculture and irrigation. Famously, he was never seen smiling; he projected leadership as a somber task.

“I would say he is a working king,” said Sakarindr Bhumiratana, who has been involved for three decades with royal development projects. “Each night on television you’d hear of him being somewhere in Thailand — somewhere far away, somewhere in great need. He was there, looking to help people.”

With his health in decline, King Bhumibol has retreated to the coastal Klaikangwon Palace, whose name means “far from worries.” His condition is treated as a state secret, as is the palace role in politics. Technically, the king is a political bystander, able only to approve or veto decisions made by the parliament. In rare public cases where the king has intervened, Thais have almost always come to view his moves as selfless, the sagacious decision of somebody duty-bound to his people.

The king has almost never allowed himself to be seen in public with generals and politicians, who were seen as far less virtuous and whose power was fleeting by comparison.

Thaksin’s rise and fall

Thaksin rose to prominence in Thailand as the king transitioned into a less public role. Elected as prime minister in 2001, Thaksin was the first Thai politician to seek to curry favor with the countryside, providing low-cost health care and debt forgiveness to a previously disenfranchised group of voters. The result: A multi-billionaire telecom tycoon became the voice of the masses.

Thaksin was deposed in a 2006 military coup and lives in self-imposed exile in Dubai, graft charges awaiting him back home. In recent years, Thaksin has been portrayed by many in Bangkok as a puppet master, controlling his political party — and most recently, his sister.

Thaksin has long proclaimed his adoration of the king. Opponents see it differently. A 2010 U.S. diplomatic cable, released by WikiLeaks, described one monarchy loyalist as saying that the “King’s health and mood remained poor ‘primarily because of Thaksin’ and the challenge Thaksin posed to the stability of the country.”

Whatever the case, Thaksin has carefully tried to cultivate a good relationship with Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn — something that could play to his advantage after the succession. Thaksin opponents have for years expressed concerns about his intentions, saying he wants to become Thailand’s first president, with more executive power than he had as prime minister.

“He wants total control,” said Kasit Piromya, a former Thai foreign minister and ambassador to the United States. “He wants to put the royal family in a golden cage.”

Thaksin has defended himself against all such charges, saying they are politically motivated, and has filed a series of defamation suits against those who have criticized him, including Kasit.

In Thailand, discussing Thaksin’s feelings about the monarchy is fair game, a topic not protected by lèse-majesté. But blogs and foreign accounts that detail Thaksin’s relationship with the prince are blocked. No tabloids serve up delicious gossip about the monarchy’s inner workings. Even academic work about the monarchy is severely limited.

Over the years,theenforcementoflèse-majesté law has waxed and waned. But recent governments have aggressively pursued cases, warning that even “liking” material considered offensive on Facebook could lead to charges. As a result of the restrictions, the Thai monarchy remains a “black hole,”said PavinChachavalpongpun, an associate professor at the Center for Southeast Asian Studies at Kyoto University.“You are not supposed to talk about anything,”Pavin said. “Well, anything but glorification.”

4 things to know about Thailand’s military coup(0:51)

http://www.washingtonpost.com/posttv/c/embed/e0597344-e2a5-11e3-9442-54189bf1a809?e=1&

After months of violence, Thailand’s military went from declaring martial law to seizing control of the government. Here are the facts to know. (Casey Capachi/The Washington Post)
Chico Harlan covers personal economics as part of The Post’s financial team.

 

March 6, 2015

Thailand’s Big Step Backwards

Thailand’s Big Step Backwards

Click on the link to get more news and video from original source:  http://thediplomat.com/2015/03/thailands-big-step-backwards/

Image Credit: REUTERS/Erik De Castro

There have been many disturbing developments taking place in Thailand of late, despite the relative calm made possible by a year of martial law. Freedom of speech has been curtailed alarmingly since the military staged a coup, with academic dissent and members of the opposition being called into the barracks for “attitude adjustment,” psycho-intimidation, detention, or even arrest. Many who insist on voicing their disagreement with the military regime have had their passports revoked, forcing them to seek asylum overseas. Social media surveillance and media censorship, and the rising lèse-majesté allegation and prosecution, have gripped Thais and non-Thais alike in fear and silence. Constitutional and other reform moves are showing signs of a throwback to an authoritarian era, with the prospects of unelected government, appointed prime minister, non-democratic elements, and further centralization of powers in the hands of the old traditional elite: the military, the bureaucracy, and the monarchy establishments.

Since May 2014, the international community has been asking: How did Thailand come to this? Just a decade ago, Thailand was a beacon of democracy in the region, trusted by Western democracies to nudge Myanmar out of authoritarianism. Now, the reverse seems imminent. It seems increasingly conceivable that neighboring Myanmar could pass Thailand on the march towards greater freedom and democratization.

How do the traditional elite or the typical monarchy-fearing Thais explain this backward spiral? First, they will say that the protracted demonstrations aimed at preventing elections from taking place, which they claim to be well-intentioned, and the counter-protests by election-supporters, have destabilized the country and the military’s reluctant intervention was needed to salvage the nation from further chaos and to “bring back happiness” to Thais.

Second, they will insist that former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and his entire clan are hugely corrupt, as if Thai politics before them had been clean and pure, and that he threatened to undermine, or even overthrow, the royal institution, which they claim is unconditionally and universally revered by all Thais.

Third, they will tell you that Thailand is unique and that its monarchy is the best and the noblest, that Thailand is exceptional by the fact that its national identity is interwoven with the royal establishment at the top of the social hierarchy. They will also reassure you that Thailand remains committed to its own version of democracy, which they claim has worked well with the constitutional monarchy, at least until Thaksin came along.

These arguments are well-worn talking points spun by the Thai bureaucracy and the conservative segment, which comprise the well-heeled rich, the manipulated poor, and the brainwashed mass. But just how many Thais really support this medieval version of monarchy is not known, because no referendum on this has ever been allowed. Thais, unfortunately, have no choice about their country’s regime type; they are made to believe from birth that they are fortunate to have the best royals in the world. Any dissidents are effectively ex-communicated. Developed countries, most notably the U.S., Japan, and the European Union, have tried in vain to use logic and liberal political arguments with the Thai leadership, who have refused to budge from their outdated and insular views about what roles the monarchy should play in modern times. This old guard insists that the only way is to preserve these ancient practices and protocols, and that Thaksin and his networks must be banished from Thai politics for good, if the country is to achieve unity and prosper. For this purpose, lèse-majesté is wielded as a tool, on the ground of safeguarding national security, to repress different views and suppress progressive reform efforts.

To those educated in the liberal arts and Western philosophy, the arguments of the military and traditional elite ring as empty excuses to cling to absolute power. Their talking points are flawed for many reasons. First, the conflicts and unrest over the past years were not caused by Shinawatra alone, as they claimed. In fact, they were symptoms of a serious ailment afflicting Thailand’s political culture, one that needed urgent treatment if Thailand was to survive in the modern era. Demonstrations by the mostly urban, whistleblowing crowd who proudly saw themselves as “corruption police” during late 2013 to early 2014, which ushered in the May 2014 coup, were misled and mistaken in their democratic assumptions. In fact, the resort to non-parliamentary means, particularly the sabotage of elections and destruction of ballot polls, showed the disrespect the demonstrators had for the majority and their fear of losing the elections. Again, they will tell you that the mass was deceived by Thaksin and therefore democratic elections were not the solution. Imagine if other countries were to come up with the same justification every time they wanted to get rid of a popular political opponent.

Second, the military’s claim to “return happiness” to Thailand is unconvincing. This definition of “happiness” is paternalistic – no referendum has been held to ask the people what they really want.  And while corruption is widely reviled, no one says a word about the culture of patronage that has eaten away at the country’s democratic core, the patronage networks in which the monarchy sits at the apex. Patronage, which often eludes the law, can be as bad as corruption.

Third, the claim that democracy has been compatible with Thailand’s political system and culture until Thaksin came to power is unfounded. Thailand’s democracy is young and has always been weak – and weakened by Thai culture. The country first experienced democracy only as recently as the 1990s, and the system has been hampered by a monarchy-centric bureaucracy and an electorate with little political and civic education, and dragged down by cronyism and patronage. The crux of the problem lies in the fact that the traditional elite refuse to share power with or accommodate the new elite – the new power machine of Thaksin and his competitive networks, and the fact that conservative elements cling to their power and privileges, which have been undermined by the growing call for greater equality and rights brought about by democratic awakening.

Thailand cannot claim a commitment to democracy, unless it improves its understanding of and respect for individual liberty and freedom of opinion. Most important – and most difficult – is the need to reform the country’s monarchy, whose relationship with Thailand’s elite networks and the masses needs a serious analysis and debate. Sadly, most Thais continue to shut their doors and block their ears to different views, demanding that the world understand them while they refuse to consider how the outside world perceives them. As the world gives up on this once-vibrant country, many Thais will be further imprisoned by fear and lack of political imagination. Even after elections are held, it is unlikely that Thailand will become more democratic or more free. The impeachment and possible prosecution of former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, sister of Thaksin and a democratically elected prime minister in her own right, is another bad sign that the country’s reconciliation is unlikely to succeed given this winner-takes-all mentality.

Most disturbing of all is the lack of moral courage among mainstream intellectuals, the elite, and the middle class, who prefer to self-censor and stay silent. Unless the lèse-majesté law is reformed, Thailand will never progress towards modernity, let alone democracy. Equally worrying is the trend of accusing supporters of democracy of being against the monarchy, which risks linking the monarchy with authoritarianism. As the current and future leadership show no sign of embracing more progressive reforms, the only hope may lie with the country’s younger population. Influencing this cohort through liberal education and positive exposure to democratic values may be the only path to save Thailand from its return to antiquity. Thailand, ironically, seems too tied down by its own Thai-ness to modernize and democratize.

Sam Michael is an independent writer. 

 

January 24, 2015

What It Is And How It Toppled Thai Leader Yingluck Shinawatra

Thailand Rice Subsidy Scheme: What It Is And How It Toppled Thai Leader Yingluck Shinawatra

    @ShuanSim, s.sim@ibtimes.com

on January 23 2015 10:27 AM

Click on the link to get more news and video from original source: http://www.ibtimes.com/thailand-rice-subsidy-scheme-what-it-how-it-toppled-thai-leader-yingluck-shinawatra-1792788

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Former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra arrives at Parliament before the National Legislative Assembly meeting. Yingluck was impeached over her controversial rice subsidy program Friday. Reuters

Former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra was impeached Friday for her role in a rice subsidy program that cost the Thai government billions. The rice subsidy that was supposed to help farmers eventually saw Yingluck ousted from the government, sparked protests and led to the former government leader’s expulsion from Thai politics for five years. So how did the subsidy program work exactly?

The rice program introduced in 2011 sought to buy rice from local farmers at above-market prices, stockpile them to drive up global prices, and then sell them for increased revenue. Thailand was the world’s largest exporter of rice at the time and had the clout to affect prices of the staple. The program was earlier promoted by Yingluck’s brother Thaksin, who was the former prime minister and is now exiled from the country.

The program was one of the main campaign messages that Yingluck’s Pheu Thai party ran on, winning her party a landslide election in 2011. “It helped those with lower incomes earn more,” she said at her impeachment hearing on Thursday, according to Reuters. “Farmers are the backbone of the country.” Farmers account for 23 percent of Thailand’s 67 million people.

The subsidy was popular with farmers initially as they expanded their production in Thailand’s rural north. “I wanted to get more money,” farmer Jaroen Namhap told the Wall Street Journal. “Many other farmers in this district decided to do the same thing by expanding the amount of land used to grow rice. The government was offering such a good price. It was much better than selling to rice mills.”

However, the program went south when India returned to the rice export market after a long absence, and prices dropped worldwide. Yingluck’s government began to run out of money to support the subsidy, and many farmers are still waiting for payment from the government for the rice they turned in. Rice farmers had threatened to park 100 tractors at the Thailand airport in protest.

Yingluck’s rice subsidy program supposedly cost the government some 500 billion Thai baht ($15.3) in losses. Thailand’s National Anti-Corruption Commission found Yingluck guilty of corruption last May for ignoring flaws in her program to advance her populist political agenda. “The rice subsidy is fraught with weaknesses and risks at every level, leading to corruption and impacting the state budget, farmers and the country’s fiscal position,” Commissioner Vicha Mahakun said at a news conference announcing the panel’s verdict, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The Thai Constitutional Court removed Yingluck from office in May, sparking protests from the pro-Yingluck faction known as the Red Shirts. Opposition to Yingluck’s government, comprising many of the country’s traditional elite, planned their own rallies, too. A military junta, the National Council for Peace and Order, was established at the ousting of Yingluck and has imposed martial law since May.

Thailand’s current National Legislative Assembly is mostly comprised of military officers put in place by the junta government, known for its strict censorship laws and nationalist policies. Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha had said he did not order the NLA to vote to indict Yingluck, according to Reuters. Yingluck also faces criminal charges for the rice subsidy program that could see her jailed for up to 10 years.

“Thai democracy has died along with the rule of law,” Yingluck said in a statement posted on her Facebook page, reported by Reuters. “I will fight until the end to prove my innocence, no matter what the outcome will be. And most importantly, I want to stand alongside the Thai people. Together we must bring Thailand prosperity, bring back democracy and truly build justice in Thai society.”

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