Democracy: Six months of Thai political crisis = Martial Law = Democracy in Limbo

Thai army chief, Prayuth, today, invoked Martial Law, and so far, media and protest freedom has been curbed. Prayuth cited an intention to keep law and order in Thailand, as Thailand, according to many local and global press, was entering a crunch-time, as Democracy & the Establishment’s Suthep brand of Fascism, were on collusion course.

Thailand’s ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, a controversial figure at the heart of Thailand’s bitter political divide, which broadly pits Thaksin’s mostly rural and working-class supporters from the north and northeast, against the Bangkok-based establishment and royalist allies from the south, said on Tuesday that the imposition of martial law must not “destroy” democracy.

“The declaration of martial law is expected…. however I hope no party will violate human rights and further destroy democracy,” the billionaire tycoon-turned-politician, who was ousted in a coup in 2006, said on Twitter. The Bangkok-based establishment and royalist allies from the south demonstrators want the caretaker government swept from power and a new premier appointed t o oversee vaguely-defined reforms aimed at curbing Thaksin’s influence. They see the former telecoms magnate as corrupt and a threat to the nation’s revered king.

Meanwhile, both USA and Japan have also expressed concern for Thailand’s Democracy.
The United States embassy in Bangkok released a statement Tuesday urging the respect for “democratic principles.”

“We expect the Army to honor its commitment to make this a temporary action to prevent violence, and to not undermine democratic institutions,” the statement said.

Japan’s chief government spokesman said Tuesday that Tokyo had “grave concerns” about events in Thailand, hours after martial law was declared there. “”We strongly hope differences among the parties concerned will be settled peacefully through the democratic process,” Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters in Tokyo, adding, “We have grave concerns about the situation in Thailand “We once again strongly urge all parties concerned to act in a self-restrained manner without using violence…….We strongly hope differences among the parties concerned will be settled peacefully through the democratic process.” Japan is one of Thailand’s biggest investors, with several major manufacturers having plants there.

However, questions loom

New York Times reported: “In a country where the army has staged about a dozen coups, it was not immediately clear what degree of control the military planned to take this time. One politician called it the declaration of martial law “softer than a coup.” Yet martial law gives the military potentially sweeping powers to maintain public order — “superior power over the civil authority,” according to the wording of the law invoked by Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha, the army chief.”

“Right now it remains to be seen which path the military is taking, the choice is very clear,” said Verapat Pariyawong, a Harvard-trained lawyer and commentator, to New York Times, “either try to create a secured environment for election and reform, or to create a pseudo-legitimate process to remove the caretaking government and create transitional guarantees for the traditional elites.”

Seven months of political crisis in Thailand (AFP)

BANGKOK: Thailand’s army on Tuesday declared martial law to quell unrest across the deeply divided kingdom, which has been shaken by deadly violence since anti-government demonstrations erupted six months ago. The army said the move was “not a coup” – in a country which has seen 18 actual or attempted military takeovers since 1932.

Here is a timeline of a political crisis which has its roots in the 2006 military overthrow of tycoon-turned-premier Thaksin Shinawatra.

October 31: Protests break out against an amnesty bill which critics say is aimed at allowing Thaksin – who went into self-imposed exile to avoid jail for a corruption conviction – to return home without going to prison.

November 1: The lower house of parliament, dominated by the ruling party, votes in favour of the bill.

November 11: Amid growing outrage on the streets, the upper house overwhelmingly rejects the legislation.

November 25: Opposition supporters march on state buildings, eventually occupying several ministries.

November 30: Opposition demonstrators attack a bus carrying government supporters. Several people are killed and dozens wounded in street violence.

December 8: Opposition lawmakers resign en masse from parliament.

December 9: Prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra – Thaksin’s sister – calls early elections. The opposition later announces a boycott.

December 22: Protesters stage a massive anti-government rally in Bangkok.

December 26: The government rejects a call from the Election Commission to postpone the ballot after violent clashes.

December 27: The army chief refuses to rule out a coup, saying “anything can happen”.

December 28: An unknown gunman kills one protester and wounds several others – the start of a series of drive-by shootings targeting demonstrators.

January 13: Tens of thousands of protesters occupy major streets in an attempt to “shut down” Bangkok.

January 16: Anti-corruption authorities probe possible negligence of duty by Yingluck over a controversial rice subsidy scheme.

January 17: A grenade leaves one dead and dozens wounded at an opposition march, the first of several blasts targeting rallies.

January 21: The government declares a 60-day state of emergency in Bangkok and surrounding areas.

January 26: A protest leader is shot dead while giving a speech, as fellow demonstrators disrupt advance voting for the election.

February 2: Demonstrators prevent 10,000 polling stations from opening for the election, affecting several million people.

February 11: The Election Commission says vote re-runs will be held on April 27 in constituencies where voting was obstructed.

February 14: Thousands of riot police are deployed in Bangkok to reclaim government buildings surrounded by demonstrators.

February 19: A court bans the use of force against protesters, a day after five are killed in clashes during a police operation to dislodge them.

March 1: Demonstrators lift their blockade of Bangkok.

March 18: State of emergency lifted in Bangkok.

March 21: The Constitutional Court annuls February’s elections.

April 30: The government announces new elections for July 20.

May 7: The Constitutional Court removes Yingluck and several cabinet ministers from office.
New caretaker premier Niwattumrong Boonsongpaisan is appointed by the remainder of the cabinet.

May 9: Protesters call for the upper house of parliament, the Senate, to aid their bid to topple the government.

May 10: Pro-government protestors warn of “civil war” if an unelected leadership takes over the reins of power.

May 15: The Election Commission says a general election scheduled for July 20 is “no longer possible” as polls cannot be held without the support of the protesters.
Army chief General Prayut Chan-O-Cha warns his troops “may use force” to quell political violence after three people are killed in an attack on anti-government protesters in Bangkok.

May 20: The army declares martial law “to restore peace and order”, deploying troops in central Bangkok and censoring the media but insisting the move is “not a coup”.

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