Thailand Political System
Short for TH by Abbreviationfinder, Thailand is a constitutional monarchy, where the king must be a Buddhist. The royal power of the royal house is limited but has grown after a change of throne in 2017. In practice, the court has a great influence on society. A new constitution from 2017 gives the military a great political influence, even after the country’s formal return to civilian rule in connection with the 2019 elections.
In May 2014, Thailand’s elected government was deposed in a military coup led by army chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha. The purpose of the coup was stated to be to restore order in the country after several months of extensive protests (see Modern history) and to implement a number of political reforms, including drafting a new constitution.
- Countryaah: Total population and chart of Thailand for years of 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023 and 2024. Also covers population density, birth rate, death rate and population growth rates.
Parliament was dissolved and the then constitution, which provided for Thailand to be a parliamentary democracy, was repealed. Only the parts that concern the royal house were retained. A military junta was added to govern the country during a transitional period. When a new constitution was adopted, general elections would be held.
The military junta introduced a temporary constitution in July 2014, which gave it the power to appoint a temporary legislative assembly, which replaced the old two-chamber parliament. The temporary assembly consisted of 197 members, of which just over half were military and other academics, politicians and business leaders. In August 2014, the congregation elected dome leader Prayuth Chan-ocha as prime minister. In his new government sat several generals. The military junta remained as a kind of council with great influence over the government.
In November 2014, a committee was set up with the task of preparing a proposal for a new constitution. In March 2016, it presented a proposal for the military junta. The proposal was approved by just over 61 percent of the votes in a criticized referendum in August 2016. After a series of amendments were made at the request of King Vajiralongkorn, which strengthened the power of the royal house (see also Current Policy), the new constitution of the monarch was signed in April 2017 and entered thus in force.
Constitution of 2017
The 2017 constitution provides for Thailand to be democratically governed and that human rights and freedoms are guaranteed.
The monarch is both head of state and commander-in-chief. The king’s formal powers are limited, but in reality the royal house has a strong position, especially because the court of tradition has close ties with powerful actors in the military, the administration and the courts.
The monarch has the right to dismiss a government minister with the support of the prime minister, introduce an emergency permit with the government’s approval during a national crisis and declare war with the support of two-thirds of the national assembly. The King can dissolve the National Assembly through a decree and he can return a bill he disapproves to the National Assembly once. The monarch can also pardon prisoners. Since the fall of 2019, the king has direct control over two army forces.
To help in his office, the king has an advisory crown council, whose maximum 18 members are appointed by the king himself.
Legislative power is held by a two-chamber parliament (the National Assembly). The House of Representatives (House of Representatives) 500 members are elected in general elections for a term of four years. The upper house (Senate) will, during a five-year transition phase, from the general election in spring 2019, consist of 250 members appointed by the military junta. Six seats are reserved for the top leaders of the military and the police force. After the initial five-year term, the Senate will be reduced to 200 members, who will be appointed for a five-year term and represent various occupational groups and social sectors. How these members are to be appointed is yet to be determined. A law governing this process must be established at a later stage. The voting age is 18 years.
The House of Representatives adopts new laws, but the Senate can veto legislative proposals and dismiss politicians and prohibit them from working politically for five years. A constitutional amendment must be approved by at least one-third of the senators. It is primarily through the Senate that the military has the opportunity to influence politics.
The executive power lies with the government. According to the constitution, the prime minister (head of government) is to be formally appointed by the king. They must have the support of at least half of the members of the National Assembly, but do not have to be elected by themselves. The prime minister, who may hold the post for a maximum of eight years, elects the other ministers. The Government may consist of a maximum of 35 members.
The Constitution includes a strategic plan that sets the guidelines for the content of the policy for 20 years to come. The government that does not comply with the plan can be dismissed.
The judiciary is divided into three levels: Court of First Instance, Court of Appeal and Supreme Court. There is also a constitutional court to ensure that the legislation does not conflict with the constitution. It consists of nine judges who sit for nine years and is appointed by the king on the advice of the senate. In addition, there are administrative courts that adjudicate on administrative law issues.
In connection with the coup in May 2014, all political activity was banned by the military junta. In December 2018, the ban was lifted and political parties could start working again. However, they were prohibited from conducting election campaigns before the parliamentary elections on March 24, 2019.
The military junta’s support party is called the People’s State Power Party (Palang Pracharat). It is led by a senior military with close ties to the military junta’s leader, Prauyth Chan-ocha. The People’s State Party is supported by the two smaller parties the Alliance of Action for Thailand (Ruampalang Prachachart Thai, ACT) and the People’s Reform Party (People’s Reform Party, PRP).
The strongest opposition camp is gathered around the prosperous business family Shinawatra. Former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s first batch of Thais loves Thais (Thai Rak Thai, TRT) prevailed in the 2001 and 2005 elections and dominated Thai politics until September 2006, when Thaksin was deposed in a military coup. TRT was banned later that year by the Constitutional Court on charges of electoral fraud. The Thaksin politicians then gathered in the small right-wing People’s Party of Power (Palang Prachachon, PPP), who won the election in 2007 but was banned for the same reason a year later.
PPP’s coalition parties Thaination (Chart Thai) and Neutral Democratic Party (Matchimathipataya) were also annulled at the same time.
Thereafter, the Thaksin sympathizers were long divided between several different small parties, but before the July 2011 elections they gathered in For Thailand (Puea Thai), which was led by Thaksin’s little sister Yingluck Shinawatra and won big in the election. For Thailand, the most important party in the Thaksin camp remains.
Ahead of the March 2019 elections, the Thaksin-friendly Party for the Protection of the Nation (Thai Raksa Chart) was formed, which, however, was dissolved by the Constitutional Court one month before the election was to take place. It happened after the party tried to launch a member of the royal family as prime ministerial candidate.
The progressive party New Future (Anakhot Mai) was formed in 2018 and attracted mainly young voters. New Future became the third largest party in the 2019 election and was described as a “third force” alongside the military and royal-friendly power elite and the Shinawatra family’s political camps. New future was led by 40-year-old billionaire Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit. Above all, the party program contained a new constitution that would provide for the abolition of the military’s political power. The military duty would also be abolished and the defense budget radically reduced. The deep social and economic gaps in Thailand would be reduced.
In February 2020, the Constitutional Court decided to dissolve the New Future. At the same time, the court banned party leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit and 15 other high-ranking party members from engaging in Thai politics for the next ten years. The reason for the decisions was that the court considered that New Future financed the party activity illegally. New future 65 MPs were given 60 days to join other political parties.
The Liberal-Conservative Democratic Party (Pak Prachatipat) can be said to stand somewhere between the military junta and the Shinawatra camp. It has its main electoral base among the urban middle class and is associated with the Bangkok establishment around the royal house, business and, until the coup 2014, the military. The Democratic Party gained government power in December 2008 after party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva was appointed prime minister in a special vote in parliament. The Democrats lost the election in July 2011. Under the military regime, the Democratic Party has been weakened by internal contradictions, including regarding the support of the military-backed government.
The Democratic Party is supported by the small parties of Thai pride (Bhum Jai Thai) and the development of the Thai nation (Chart Thai Pattana). Thai pride was founded in 2008 after the Neutral Democratic Party was annulled the same year. BJT entered parliament in the March 2019 elections.
Political popular movements
Both Thaksin’s supporters and opponents built up well-organized popular movements during the first decade of the 21st century, which through political demonstrations came to influence politics. Thaksin’s opponents gathered for a long time in the Folkalliance for Democracy (PAD, also called the yellow shirts). It wanted – despite the name – to reduce Parliament’s power and give the military a kind of judgmental and overall role in politics. PAD was considered to have close ties to the Democratic Party. 2009 formed the leader in gulskjortorna a new party, new politics party (New Politics Party).
From the end of 2013, the role of the PAD was largely taken over by a similar protest movement, the People’s Committee on Democratic Reform (PDRC), which was led by a former member of the Democratic Party and former Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban. The demonstrations waned when the coup took place in May 2014 and the PDRC dissolved.
The former yellow shirts have become increasingly disappointed and critical of the military junta under military rule. Many within the movement do not consider themselves to have received as much from the military regime as one had hoped.
Thaksin supporters gathered in the Democratic Alliance against Dictatorship (UDD, or Red Shirts). They struggled to unseat the government that was appointed in 2008. The Red Shirts demanded new elections and considered that the government of Abhisit came to power in an undemocratic way because it was not elected. After the 2011 election, when Thaksin’s sister Yingluck Shinawatra and her party for Thailand won, the red shirts withdrew from the streets. Some of the red shirts want Thaksin to be re-elected as prime minister, but not all.
Nowadays, the red shirts are shattered and severely weakened. The leaders who have survived are reported to be under constant surveillance by the authorities. Today, the red shirts can hardly be said to function as mass movement.