Sunday, 24 September 2023

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Timeline of Thai politics as parliament votes for PM

BANGKOK, THAILAND — Thailand’s parliament opened Thursday to vote for a prime minister, with frontrunner Pita Limjaroenrat facing a barrage of last-minute obstacles blocking his path to power.

Here is a look at the turbulent two decades that have led to the pivotal vote:

‘Lost Decade’

2001 – Policeman-turned-billionaire telecoms magnate Thaksin Shinawatra wins a national election promising social welfare schemes.

2005 – Thaksin repeats his electoral triumph, heading up the first civilian administration to complete a four-year term in a history marked by coups.

2006 – Thaksin is toppled in a bloodless coup while at the UN in New York. A period of prolonged instability, sometimes dubbed the “Lost Decade”, ensues.

Yellow vs Red

2008 – Thaksin is convicted in absentia on corruption charges he says are politically motivated and enters self-exile.

Anti-Thaksin “Yellow Shirt” protesters storm Bangkok’s airports to protest against a Thaksin ally serving as premier. He is soon removed.

2010 – Army forces under Prayut Chan-o-cha kill more than 90 people taking part in pro-Thaksin “Red Shirt” protests in Bangkok.

2011 – Thaksin’s younger sister Yingluck is elected Thailand’s first woman prime minister.

2014 – Month-long anti-Yingluck protests turn violent. A snap 2014 election is annulled and the military — led by Prayut — seizes power.

Reform and delays

2016 – Prayut oversees a crackdown on dissent and wins a referendum to change the constitution.

Thailand mourns the death of revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who was seen as a figure of unity over a seven-decade reign.

2017 – Yingluck flees the country to avoid negligence charges and joins her brother in self-imposed exile.

2019 – Main opposition party Pheu Thai wins the most seats in a delayed and controversial election but Prayut’s party cobbles together a coalition government, with the ex-general remaining prime minister.

Protests, pandemic

2020 – The Future Forward Party, founded just two years earlier, is dissolved by the Constitutional Court.

Youth-led pro-democracy rallies in Bangkok attract tens of thousands who call for Prayut’s resignation and a rewrite of the military-scripted constitution.

The protesters also break a long-held taboo by urging reform of Thailand’s monarchy, which is protected from criticism by harsh laws.

Scores of student leaders are arrested and yo-yo in and out of jail.

2021 – The protest movement withers under pandemic restrictions and the arrest of its leaders.

Exit Prayut, enter uncertainty

2022 – Prayut is briefly suspended while the Constitutional Court considers whether he has reached his term limit, ruling in his favour the following month.

May 2023 – Move Forward Party, a successor to the dissolved Future Forward movement, wins a surprise election victory.

Its leader Pita Limjaroenrat forms an alliance with the runner-up Pheu Thai, led by another member of the Shinawatra clan.

Fractious negotiations ensue on the division of government portfolios, including the House speaker.

July 2023 – A vote for prime minister is scheduled for 13 July but Pita’s chances are considered slim.

He has to win support from conservative and military-appointed senators who oppose his party’s plans to reform the law against criticising the monarchy.

Two cases are filed against him and his party, one over his alleged possession of media company shares and another alleging MFP’s campaign pledge to reform the royal defamation laws amounts to an attempt to overthrow the constitutional monarchy.


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