Saturday, 5 April 2014

Thailand in 2014: A Democracy Endangered by Juristocracy?

Filed under: Human Rights,Thailand — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 07:06 PDT

Since 2005, Thailand has been a divided country, witnessing resurgent waves of political pandemonium. The latest resurrection of such acrimony surfaced in November 2013, when once again, the country began to suffer mass demonstrations and it appeared the military might soon stage a coup. Of course, all of these pluralistic activities took place under a monarchy that seems to stand above politics.

The Rise of Thailand’s Juristocracy

Perhaps a less visible trend, which has grown over the last decade, has been the rise of Thailand’s judiciary. Indeed, Thailand today possesses a weakly-developed democracy with a strong, monarchically-endowed juristocracy that is undergirded by the armed forces. An embedded democracy possesses elections, political rights, civil liberties, and checks and balances as well as effective control over the military.

In such democracies, courts represent the rule of law and the ability of civilians to legally redress grievances. A juristocracy, on the other hand, comes to exist in a country where the judiciary achieves near or total supremacy over other political actors in a country. In Thailand, contemporary courts exert great power and are generally the tool of senior arch-royalists. This same judiciary is the final interpreter of the law. As such, it has been used to delegitimize recalcitrant political foes.

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Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Risky road ahead in avoiding civil war

Filed under: Thailand — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 21:28 PDT

The political situation in Thailand is slowly but surely ratcheting up to something akin to a civil war. Civil wars are by nature bloody affairs that bring out the worst in everyone, let loose the extremists on all sides, and have no real heroes.

To avoid civil war, there are a few possibilities. All, unfortunately, are fraught with risk. The first is to proceed as constitutionally as possible.

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Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Bangkok: Mapping the Southern Thailand Conflict | Colloquium 28 March 2014 | Proposals by 28 February

Filed under: Conferences, Events,Thailand — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 10:31 PDT
Friday, 28 February 2014 Friday, 28 March 2014

Mapping the Southern Thailand Conflict

28 March 2014
Bangkok, Thailand
Webster University Thailand

Website: http://www.webster.ac.th/blogs/international-relations/eventsactivities/

This colloquium seeks to bring together scholars and practitioners to examine the impediments to peace and offer a realistic appraisal of the conflict in southern Thailand in light of the tentative talks underway.

Deadline for abstracts/proposals: 28th February 2014

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

How to understand Thailand’s conflict

Filed under: Media and Conflict,Thailand — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 16:40 PDT

Thailand’s political conflict has become intractable, dragging on for at least seven years with no end in sight. Analysts employ different frameworks to explain what drives the conflict. This is based on  how they approach the situation, what they emphasize and the options they consider for conflict resolution. My essay is an attempt to make explicit several conflict frameworks so we understand the different narratives being communicated.

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Saturday, 7 December 2013

Who controls Thailand’s media?

Filed under: Media and Conflict,Thailand — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 10:15 PDT

… another twist in the Thai political story played out in a factionalised media landscape. Talking us through the story this week is Sunai Pasuk, from Human Rights Watch, Al Jazeera correspondent Wayne Hay and two Thai journalists close to the story, Pirongrong Ramasooka and Noppatjak Attanon.

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Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Thailand: Tourist court resolves first case

Filed under: Dispute resolution and negotiation,Thailand — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 17:16 PDT

A speedboat accident that killed two Chinese tourists on August 28 was the first case resolved by Thailand’s first tourist court in Chon Buri’s Pattaya City.

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Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Southeast Asia’s Stark Democracy Lessons

Filed under: Cambodia,Myanmar,Southeast Asia,Thailand — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 17:29 PDT

Southeast Asia is no stranger to the challenges of unity and reconciliation. The early phases of nation-building were characterized by struggle and upheaval stemming from the reluctance of established conservative elites to share power. Democratic forms of government were deemed unsuited to societies that were organized along hierarchical lines and dominated by narrow interest groups.

By the mid-1970s, however, popular protest movements had begun to exert pressure on conservative elites, partly by harnessing popular support but also by threatening a communist-led takeover. The resulting compromise was a system of partially open, semi-democratic systems that generally promoted a broader base of wealth and prosperity but still limited freedom.

By the mid-1990s, this compromise was coming undone…

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Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Thailand: South wasn’t ready for megaphone peace talks

Filed under: Thailand — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 13:49 PDT

There is not much to lament about the demise of the peace talks between the government and the southern separatists. After all, this was a forced marriage between the Buddhist Thai state and the Malay Muslim separatist movement. The match-makers were former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra and the Malaysian government.

Neither side was ready for what ended up as a brief publicity stunt. The Thai side was plagued by internal disunity. The military and civilian security agencies did not see eye-to-eye, while politicians have constantly sent conflicting signals. Thai negotiators are also new to the bargaining game, thus keeping Thailand on the defensive.

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Saturday, 10 August 2013

Thailand: No Amnesty for Rights Abusers

Filed under: Human Rights,Thailand,Transitional Justice — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 10:17 PDT

NEW York – A proposed amnesty law before Thailand’s parliament should exclude people who ordered or carried out human rights abuses, Human Rights Watch said today. The Thai government should affirm that prosecuting those responsible for rights abuses, regardless of rank or affiliation, is critical to promoting human rights, the rule of law, and lasting reconciliation in Thailand.

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Irreconcilable 2010 Crackdown Narratives Plague Amnesty Debate

Filed under: Human Rights,Thailand,Transitional Justice — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 10:17 PDT

Deliberation on the government-sponsored draft of Amnesty Bill in Parliament yesterday was punctuated by much heckling, heated arguments, and displays of completely different narratives of what exactly happened in 2010 crackdown – the central issue that the Amnesty Bill was designed to resolve.

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Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Thailand’s Little-Known Peace Process

Filed under: Thailand — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 11:58 PDT

The war between the Patani resistance movement and the Royal Thai Government is one of Southeast Asia’s longest running and most lethal small wars. The conflict traces its roots to the annexation of southern Thailand in the lead up to the 1909 Anglo-Siamese Treaty. The aggressive assimilationist policies Thailand then deployed throughout the 20th century were viscerally opposed by surges of militant resistance, matched by heavy-handed counter-insurgency. This tragic trajectory has metastasized into the current chapter of violence, which started in 2004 with an attack on Krue Se mosque by the Thai army and has resulted in the deaths of nearly 6,000 people…

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Wednesday, 12 June 2013

World less peaceful than five years ago

Filed under: Africa files,Cambodia,Middle East,Myanmar,Rwanda,South Asia,Southeast Asia,Thailand — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 11:16 PDT

WASHINGTON – The world – especially the Greater Middle East – has become less peaceful than it was five years ago, according to the 2013 edition of the annual Global Peace Index (GPI) released here Tuesday by the Institute for Economics and Peace.

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Thursday, 23 May 2013

Leaders need to rise above legal fray to end temple row

Filed under: Cambodia,International Law: War,Thailand — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 17:03 PDT

The revived hearings over the Preah Vihear temple boundary dispute before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) have concluded. Despite a formal decision from the court not expected for several months, several observations can now be made…

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Thursday, 28 March 2013

Thai government begins talks with separatists to end decades-long armed struggle

Filed under: Southeast Asia,Thailand — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 09:04 PDT

Thai authorities and Muslim rebels leaders have started peace talks aimed at ending almost a decade of unrest in the country’s far south, as fresh violence killed at least five people.

The talks on Thursday with representatives from the Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN) insurgent group, expected to last one day, will focus on reducing bloodshed, Thai National Security Council chief Paradorn Pattanatabut said, warning the overall peace process would take time.

“Today’s main focus is to reduce violence. Today we will focus on building mutual trust and good relations,” Paradorn told reporters in the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur, where the meeting was being held.

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Wednesday, 20 February 2013

No clear signs in southern Thailand

Filed under: Religion and peacebuilding,Thailand — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 08:02 PDT

PATTANI – A new sign appeared throughout the insurgency-torn provinces of Thailand’s ethnic Malay-Muslim minority region in December. The three heads of the Provincial Islamic Committees from the southern provinces of Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat are pictured with the message: “We ask for the support [of insurgents] to come out and talk [with authorities] for peace.”

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Monday, 18 February 2013

Can Malaysia be a peacemaker in southern Thailand?

Filed under: Southeast Asia,Thailand — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 13:03 PDT

If everything goes well – and it is a big if – by the end of this month in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia could broker a framework peace plan between the Thai government and southern Thai-Malay insurgents to begin a peace dialogue. But it is not a done deal. Rather, it is a work in progress showing for the first time that Thailand and Malaysia are working closely together to bring a long lasting solution to the restive deep South after years of unfulfilled promises.

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Thursday, 6 December 2012

Protests Sweep Through ASEAN

Filed under: Cambodia,Myanmar,Nonviolence,Southeast Asia,Thailand — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 17:11 PDT

U.S. President Barack Obama’s historic visit to Burma and the 21st Summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Phnom Penh dominated news coverage in the region during the past month — and rightly so. Obama’s Burma trip put a global spotlight on the reforms being implemented by the civilian government in that country, while the ASEAN Summit exposed the continuing failure of the regional grouping to address the maritime disputes between China and several ASEAN member countries over the South China Sea.

But aside from these issues, the month of November was also memorable because of the phenomenal protests that took place across Southeast Asia. For example: The anti-government Pitak Siam (Protect Thailand) network mobilized 20,000 people in Bangkok; more than 15,000 participants joined Malaysia’s “Green Walk”; a bus strike in Singapore, the first labor strike in the city in almost three decades, stunned the city-state; and a peaceful protest camp set up by monks and farmers to oppose a copper mine project was brutally dispersed by Burmese riot police.

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Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Governments should hear the global outcry against corruption

A growing outcry over corrupt governments forced several leaders from office last year, but as the dust has cleared it has become apparent that the levels of bribery, abuse of power and secret dealings are still very high in many countries. Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index 2012 shows corruption continues to ravage societies around the world.

Two thirds of the 176 countries ranked in the 2012 index score below 50, on a scale from 0 (perceived to be highly corrupt) to 100 (perceived to be very clean), showing that public institutions need to be more transparent, and powerful officials more accountable.

“Governments need to integrate anti-corruption actions into all public decision-making. Priorities include better rules on lobbying and political financing, making public spending and contracting more transparent and making public bodies more accountable to people,” said Huguette Labelle, the Chair of Transparency International.

“After a year of focus on corruption, we expect governments to take a tougher stance against the abuse of power. The Corruption Perceptions Index 2012 results demonstrate that societies continue to pay the high cost of corruption,” Labelle said.

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Friday, 16 November 2012

Myanmar: Goodbye clenched fist, hello sweaty palm

Filed under: Cambodia,Human Rights,International Law: War,Myanmar,Southeast Asia,Thailand — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 17:23 PDT

HE WILL be on the ground for less than a day. Still, when Barack Obama arrives in Myanmar on November 19th, one leg of a three-country South-East Asian tour, it will be quite a moment: the first ever visit to the country by a sitting American president, which sets the seal on one of the fastest rehabilitations of a former American foe.

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Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Gothom pushes for democratic Thailand

Filed under: Thailand — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 14:16 PDT

A veteran peace advocate is proposing a new platform for political dialogue and peace with key issues such as charter amendment and decentralisation being discussed in a bid to create an environment conducive to finding a way out of the long-running, polarised conflict.

Gothom Arya, lecturer in human rights and peace studies at Mahidol University, said he began his year-long “Platform for a Peaceful and Democratic Thailand” project in February and plans to put forward some ideas for national discussion on Oct 27 and 28.

The project, sponsored indirectly by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), focuses on four issues — participatory constitutional amendment, equality and dignity, education for civility, and decentralisation.

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