The political tension in Thailand deteriorated again in November 2013, after the parliament passed the amnesty bill and Yingluck was ousted by the constitutional court due to the claim of abuse of power. The Senate attempted to appoint a new prime minister, but was criticized by government supporters.
At 4 a.m. on 20 May 2014, the military declared martial law before the situation could worsen. This move was unexpected by both society and the acting caretaker government, which claimed that there had been no consultation prior to the declaration. The Peace Keeping Command Centre (PKCC) was then formed to restore peace and order to Thailand, with reassurances from the military that this was not a coup, and that people did not have to panic.
On 21 May 2014, a day after the declaration of martial law, the military held a meeting involving the Chairman of the Election Commission, the acting Senate house speaker, the leaders of both anti and pro governments protest movements, the leader of the governing Pheu Thai party and the leader of the opposition Democrat party. The purpose of the meeting was to mediate a solution to end the political gridlock.
However, the mediation failed to solve the political conflict after just the first day. On the second day, the meeting could not move forward as the government and the opposition could find no common ground. The parties failed to reach an agreement, and a military coup was announced immediately on 22 May 2014.
Key personnel from both sides who attended the meeting were detained. However, both the Chairman of the Election Commission and the acting Senate house speaker were released.
The new junta then formed the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO). The NPCO ordered anyone who was involved in the political conflict to report to the Council, and these personnel were detained from three to seven days in the army barracks.
On 22 July 2014, two months after the military seized power from the elected government, the King endorsed the new Thai interim constitution 2014 (B.E.2557).
This interim Constitution is Thailand’s 19th constitution in eighty-two years of democracy. The key clauses of this interim Constitution stated that mandatory formation of the National Legislative Assembly, the Prime Minister and the cabinet, the National Reform Council and the Constitutional Drafting Committee.
National Legislative Assembly (NLA) has already been formed. 200 members were appointed by the NCPO, however 8 members resigned, thus the current National Legislative Assembly have 192 members. The National Legislative Assembly acts as both the House of Representative and the Senate.
The National Reform Council (NRC) is still in the process of selecting its members. The purpose of the National Reform Council is to study and propose reforms in various areas. Similar to the NAL, the members of NRC are appointed by the NCPO.
The Constitutional Drafting Committee (CDC) is tasked to prepare a draft constitution. It has 120 days to draft a new constitution after its inception through the NRC. Its members are appointed by the NCPO, NLA, NRC and the cabinet.
The National Legislative Assembly, which all the members are selected from NCPO, selected General Prayuth Chan-ocha, leader of the coup, to be the Thailand’s Prime Minister. On 25 August 2014, the King officially endorsed General Prayuth Chan-ocha as Prime Minister.
This recent coup has solved the political situation and brought stability back to Thailand. The coup has been widely viewed by the Thai population as an efficient solution, and the majority of citizens view the coup positively. As the opinion poll shows that: “81.71 percent of the people are happy with the appointment of General Prayuth Chan-ocha as the prime minister as anticipated and hope he will be a good and decisive leader who will be able to perform his duty properly to bring the country forward” Suan Dusit Poll. (Thai Public Broadcasting Service, 2014)
Thailand’s focus is now the National Reform Council and the Constitutional Drafting Committee. These two bodies will play a significant role in Thai politics as they will determine the fate of Thailand’s democracy and the nation’s direction. The junta government is committed to fixing the situation in the country, and will use all means to achieve their goals.
General Prayuth Chan-ocha is an important figure in the future of Thai democracy. He has the power to appoint the key players in the National Reform Council and the Constitutional Drafting Committee. Given his position and power, the fate of Thailand’s future will be in his hands. The democratic future of Thailand is uncertain given the current situation, and democracy in Thailand may have to take a backseat for now.