Friday, November 2, 2007

See also: 2006 Thailand coup d'état
This article is part of the series: Politics and government of Thailand
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The politics of Thailand currently takes place in a framework of a constitutional monarchy, whereby the Prime Minister is the head of government and a hereditary monarch is head of state. Executive power is currently exercised by a military junta and its appointed Prime Minister and Cabinet. Legislative power is vested in a junta-appointed legislature. The Judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature. Political activities are currently banned. Prior to the 2006 coup, the kingdom was a parliamentary democracy, with an elected bicameral legislature.
Thailand had been ruled by kings since the thirteenth century. In 1932, the country officially became a constitutional monarchy, though in practice, the government was dominated by the military and the elite bureaucracy. The country's current constitution was promulgated in 2006.
The King of Thailand has little direct power under the constitution but is a symbol of national identity and unity. King Bhumibol — who has been on the throne since 1946 — commands enormous popular respect and moral authority, which he has used on occasion to resolve political crises that have threatened national stability.
Currently, Thailand is run by a military Military junta calling itself the Council for National Security. On 19 September 2006, the CNS staged a coup d'état that overthrew the elected government of Thaksin Shinawatra. Since that time, Thailand has been governed by a military junta headed by General Sonthi Boonyaratglin, who later appointed General Surayud Chulanont, who is a member of King's Privy Council, as Prime Minister. The coup and the governing junta were endorsed by King Bhumibol Adulyadej in a royal decree on the day following the coup .


  • Bhumibol Adulyadej
    Prime Minister

    • Surayud Chulanont
      2005-2006 political crisis
      2006 coup d'état

      • Council for National Security

        • Sonthi Boonyaratkalin
          Civilian interim government

          • Cabinet of Thailand
            National Assembly
            Political parties

            • April 2006 (invalidated)
              October 2006 (cancelled)
              Next (2007)

              • 1997 Constitution (abrogated)
                2006 Interim Constitution
                Next Constitution (referendum)
                Constitutional Court
                Provinces and districts
                Human rights
                South Thailand insurgency
                Foreign relations
                Foreign aid Politics of Thailand Executive branch
                The current constitution allows a unicameral legislature, members of which are appointed by the Council for National Security. The 250 members of the legislature may request that the Cabinet give statements of fact or explain problems, but is not allowed to hold vote of no-confidence against the Cabinet or Premier.

                Legislative branch
                Political activities were outlawed by the junta since the coup of 19 September 2006. The junta gave no indication for when political activities would again become legal.
                The junta cancelled elections scheduled for 15 October 2006. The junta originally promised that democratic elections would occur within 12 months. However in October 2006, it extended the timeframe for elections to 17 months. No firm date has yet to be set for democratic elections.
                For other political parties see List of political parties in Thailand. An overview on elections and election results is included in Elections in Thailand.

                Political parties and elections
                Supreme Court (ศาลฎีกา, Sandika), judges appointed by the monarch. All courts are not under the Thai Ministry of Justice according to 1997 constitution section 249. There is also an independent Constitutional Court. There is a Court of Appeals, divided into districts and three (3) judges compose a court. Research judges assist the sitting judges. Judges must take an examination and two different examinations are given: one exam is for judges trained in Thailand and a different examination is given for judges who graduate from foreign law schools. Trial courts of the first instance (civil, criminal and kwaeng) are also staffed by judges. Labor Court judges are not necessarily lawyers and work for the ministry of Labor. There is also the IPCIT Court for intellectual property and international trade. There is no stenographic record of any trial court proceedings and all court proceedings are composed by the trial judge. There is no discovery of evidence or witnesses in trial court. The criminally accused are entitled to have a court-appointed certified translator present in court if they cannot afford one. Appeals must be filed with the trial court within thirty (30) days of the judge reading, signing and issuing the verdict. There are no juries in trials. Only Thai citizens can be admitted to the Bar and can practice before the courts.
                The Asian Human Rights Commission called the Thai legal system a "mess" and called for a drastic overhaul of Thailand's criminal procedures. It cited the rampant use of forced confessions, and the fact that even a senior justice ministry official admitted that 30% of cases went to court with no evidence. It also criticized the judiciary for failing to ensure that trials are conducted speedily, citing the case of four Thai men accused of plotting to kill a Supreme Court president. The accused appeared in court 461 times before 91 different judges since proceedings began in 1993.

                Judicial branch
                Thailand's legal system blends principles of traditional Thai and Western laws; the western sourced laws are often misused and corrupted and the traditional 'thai' laws are the product of hindu-brahmin laws used by the Khmer Empire. The Constitutional Court of Thailand has jurisdiction over certain constitutional issues. The Courts of Justice have jurisdiction over criminal and civil cases and are organized in three tiers: Courts of First Instance, the Court of Appeals, and the Supreme Court of Justice. There are no stenographic records kept by the trial court and the record is composed of what the judge decides. There is no discovery in the Thai legal system. Slander and libel are not civil torts in Thailand but criminal offenses. Attorneys must carry their current, yellow, bar card when in court and may be required to produce it on challenge. Administrative courts have jurisdiction over suits between private parties and the government, and cases in which one government entity is suing another. In Thailand's southern border provinces, where Muslims constitute the majority of the population, Provincial Islamic Committees have limited jurisdiction over probate, family, marriage, and divorce cases. Thailands legal system has been often criticised by other countries for having penalties of life in prison or even death for crimes such as drug possession or smuggling, while having lenient penalties for crimes such as terrorism and marital abuse resulting in spousal death.

                Legal system
                Thailand is divided into seventy-five provinces (changwat, singular and plural). Each is assigned a governor by the Ministry of the Interior, with the exception of the metropolis of greater Bangkok, whose governor is popularly elected. The provinces are:
                Amnat Charoen, Ang Thong, Buriram, Chachoengsao, Chai Nat, Chaiyaphum, Chanthaburi, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Chon Buri, Chumphon, Kalasin, Kamphaeng Phet, Kanchanaburi, Khon Kaen, Krabi, Krung Thep (Bangkok), Lampang, Lamphun, Loei, Lop Buri, Mae Hong Son, Maha Sarakham, Mukdahan, Nakhon Nayok, Nakhon Pathom, Nakhon Phanom, Nakhon Ratchasima (Khorat), Nakhon Sawan, Nakhon Si Thammarat, Nan, Narathiwat, Nongbua Lamphu, Nong Khai, Nonthaburi, Pathum Thani, Pattani, Phang Nga, Phatthalung, Phayao, Phetchabun, Phetchaburi, Phichit, Phitsanulok, Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya, Phrae, Phuket, Prachin Buri, Prachuap Khiri Khan, Ranong, Ratchaburi, Rayong, Roi Et, Sa Kaeo, Sakon Nakhon, Samut Prakan, Samut Sakhon, Samut Songkhram, Sara Buri, Satun, Sing Buri, Sisaket, Songkhla, Sukhothai, Suphan Buri, Surat Thani, Surin, Tak, Trang, Trat, Ubon Ratchathani, Udon Thani, Uthai Thani, Uttaradit, Yala, Yasothon.

                Administrative divisions

                Recent political history
                Following the 1932 revolution which imposed constitutional limits on the monarchy, Thai politics were dominated for a half century by a military and bureaucratic elite. Changes of government were effected primarily by means of a long series of mostly bloodless coups.
                Beginning with a brief experiment in democracy during the mid-1970s, civilian democratic political institutions slowly gained greater authority, culminating in 1988 when Chatichai Choonhavan — leader of the Chart Thai Party (Thai Nation Party) — assumed office as the country's first democratically elected prime minister in more than a decade. Three years later, yet another bloodless coup ended his term.
                Shortly afterward, the military appointed Anand Panyarachun, a businessman and former diplomat, to head a largely civilian interim government and promised to hold elections in the near future. However, following inconclusive elections, former army commander Suchinda Kraprayoon was appointed prime minister. Thais reacted to the appointment by demanding an end to military influence in government. Demonstrations were violently suppressed by the military; in May 1992, soldiers killed at least fifty protesters.
                Domestic and international reaction to the violence forced Suchinda to resign, and the nation once again turned to Anand Panyarachun, who was named interim prime minister until new elections in September 1992. In those elections, the political parties that had opposed the military in May 1992 won by a narrow majority, and Chuan Leekpai, a leader of the Democrat Party, became prime minister at the head of a five-party coalition. Following the defection of a coalition partner, Chuan dissolved Parliament in May 1995, and the Chart Thai Party won the largest number of parliamentary seats in subsequent elections. Party leader Banharn Silpa-archa became Prime Minister but held the office only little more than a year. Following elections held in November 1996, Chavalit Youngchaiyudh formed a coalition government and became Prime Minister. The onset of the Asian financial crisis caused a loss of confidence in the Chavalit government and forced him to hand over power to Chuan Leekpai in November 1997. Chuan formed a coalition government based on the themes of economic crisis management and institution of political reforms mandated by Thailand's 1997 constitution. It collapsed just days before its term was scheduled to end.

                Transition to democracy
                See also: Thailand political crisis 2005-2006
                In the January 2001 elections, telecommunications multimillionaire Thaksin Shinawatra and his Thai Rak Thai (TRT) party won an overwhelming victory on a populist platform of economic growth and development. After absorbing several smaller parties, TRT gained an absolute majority in the lower house of the Parliament, controlling 296 of 500 seats. In a cabinet reshuffle of October 2002, the Thaksin administration further put its stamp on the government. A package of bureaucratic reform legislation created six new ministries in an effort to streamline the bureaucratic process and increase efficiency and accountability.
                The general election held on 6 February, 2005 resulted in another landslide victory for Thaksin and TRT, which now controlled 374 seats in Parliament's lower house. The popularity of Thaksin's populist policies in rural areas and the publicity Thaksin received in the aftermath of the Great Indian Ocean Tsunami, which occurred shortly before the election, were the keys to TRT's historic victory.
                However, Thaksin proceeded to become the target of public protests which led to widespread calls for his resignation or impeachment. Thaksin dissolved parliament on 24 February 2006 and called a snap election for 2 April 2006. The election was widely boycotted by the opposition, leading to unopposed TRT candidates for 38 seats failing to get the necessary quorum of 20% of eligible votes. As the Thai constitution requires that all seats be filled to open parliament, this produced a constitutional crisis. After floating several suggestions, on 4 April 2006, Thaksin announced that he would step down as prime minister as soon as parliament had selected a successor. The crisis was referred to the supreme court, which declared the election invalid. New elections were set for 15 October 2006. Until then, Thaksin would have remained as caretaker prime minister.

                2006 coup

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