A political storm is gathering over the upcoming court decision on former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s frozen wealth, raising widespread concerns over how events will unfold and how the military will react.
The Military’s Past, Present and Future Roles in Thailand’s Ongoing Political Crisis
Thailand s armed forces have intervened in politics many times before, most recently with Thaksin’s ouster in 2006. Many Thais welcomed that putsch as a circuit-breaker in a time of dangerously rising tension, arguing that the constitution had already been undermined by Thaksin, who now lives in self-exile and as he tries to claw his way back to power.
On the other side, coup opponents say Thailand’s current political turmoil can be traced back to that rainy night of September 19, 2006, when the military seized power and abolished the 1997 Constitution.
Now a new wave of political tension is building, with the red shirt United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) holding near-daily demonstrations to call for a return to the 1997 Constitution and to warn the military to stay out of politics.
Recent polls generally show the public discounts another coup d’etat, and many analysts similarly see one as far-fetched. The army’s top leadership has also dismissed the reports as rumors. Still, the very fact that it’s seen as possible is indicative of the long-term structural political problems that have plagued the country since the last coup.
Please join us as we welcome three distinguished panelists to discuss role of the military in Thai politics and culture, as well as the public perception of coups d’etat in contemporary Thailand.
A Panel Discussion with Panitan Wattanayagorn, Suranand Vejjajiva & Federico Ferrara
8pm Thurs, February 18, 2010
– Panitan Wattanayagorn PhD, Acting Government Spokesman, is currently on leave from his associate professorship in the Department of International Relations, Faculty of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University. Dr. Panitan has advised a series of governments on military and defence affairs, reform, and conflict management. In 2005, he served as foreign affairs advisor to then-Leader of the Opposition in Parliament, Abhisit Vejjajiva, and advisor to the Southern Border Provinces Peace-Building Command. In 2004, he helped draft reform legislation for the Ministry of Defence. In 2002-2003, he was a member of the National Human Rights Commission’s Subcommittee on Terrorism Law. He concurrently developed Key Performance Indicators on Thailand s security for the National Economic and Social Development Advisory Council.
– Suranand Vejjajiva, formerly a Cabinet Minister in the Thaksin Shinawatra administration, served as Minister Attached to the Prime Minister’s Office (2005-2006), Member of Parliament (2001-2005), and Spokesman for the Thai Rak Thai Party (2001-2005). He is now a popular cable TV and radio show host and respected columnist for the Bangkok Post. Mr Suranand is a cousin of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva.
– Federico Ferrara PhD, is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at the National University of Singapore, where he writes on elections, political parties, and democratization in non-Western societies. He is the author of the newly-released, provocative book Thailand Unhinged: Unraveling the Myth of a Thai-Style Democracy.