Thailand’s election on May 14 will be a contest between the forces that supported the 2014 coup and those who deem it necessary to pursue urgent democratic reforms in governance.
The army leader who led the 2014 coup is the incumbent Prime Minister and is seeking re-election. General Prayut Chan-o-cha headed the military-backed government which drafted the 2017 Constitution. He appointed 250 members of the Senate, who all chose him to become Prime Minister in the 2019 election.
The same system will be used to determine the country’s next leader. On May 14, voters will cast their ballots for the 500-member Parliament. The next Prime Minister needs at least 376 votes from the Parliament and the Senate. Prayut has the initial advantage because Senate members were his appointees. But Prayut is not assured of getting the absolute support of the Senate since his former Deputy Prime Minister is also a candidate.
The continuing strong influence of the military and royalist forces in the government is a major election issue. Another key issue is the impact of the youth-led protest movement, which called for democratic reforms in 2020. The latter is credited for popularizing the demand to review the controversial Section 112 of the Criminal Code or the Royal Defamation Law (lese Majeste). For several years, the government has weaponized the law to stifle dissent and silence critics.
READ MORE: Why are young people protesting in Thailand?
Global Voices extensively covered the 2014 coup, the rise of the pro-democracy movement, the campaign against Lese Majeste, the emergence of the student-led resistance in 2020, the crackdown during the pandemic, and the push for human rights protection during the ongoing election campaign.
Stories about Thailand's 2023 election: Continuity or change? from April, 2023
Representatives of 10 political parties shared their positions on the controversial law which has been actively enforced to silence criticism supposedly in order to protect the monarchy.
"…information disorders have been weaponized for political gain, while oppressive governments have tried to control the internet, particularly through social media, and crackdown on dissidents using digital surveillance as tactic."
"Political parties agreed that, regardless of who forms the government, it is crucial to work together to create stability, restore democracy, and promote economic development that leaves no one behind."
HRW and over 50 Thai and international civil society groups highlighted the shrinking spaces for freedoms and democratic processes in Thailand in joint letters to 25 of Thailand’s democratic allies and trading partners.