Yingluck Shinawatra Impeachment: An Execution of Thai Democracy

January 28, 2015

YingLuck Shinawatra Impeachment: An Execution of Thai Democracy

by Kevin Hewison


YingluckNo-one should be surprised that Thailand’s former Prime Minister, Yingluck Shinawatra, has been impeached by the military-appointed National Legislative Assembly. This was one more act in a political tragedy in which elected politicians have been repeatedly defeated by the military and judiciary.

Despite rumours of a behind-the-scenes “deal” being done, when the assembly voted it was almost unanimous in impeaching Yingluck and banning her from politics for five years last week. These events were scripted, directed and produced by the military junta. Perhaps the only surprise was that Yingluck defended herself, her government and electoral democracy.

The impeachment was a show trial. An unelected assembly, packed with generals and Yingluck’s political opponents, threw out an elected politician who had already been sacked by the Constitutional Court before the May 2014 coup. That putsch – itself illegal – ejected the elected government, scrapped the 2007 constitution and set its own rules to retroactively impeach Yingluck from a position she no longer held.

The allegations against Yingluck were vague. They asserted dereliction of duty in overseeing a rice subsidy scheme, causing 500 billion baht in damages to the economy, mismanagement and corruption. Little convincing evidence was presented.

The rice subsidy scheme was part of her Pheu Thai Party’s election platform when it won a landslide election victory in 2011. Thai governments have long intervened in the rice trade. The scheme Pheu Thai promoted was a variant of a policy begun more than 30 years ago.

The policy was changed substantially in 2001 by Thaksin, Yingluck’s brother, after he was elected. Yingluck’s scheme was meant to move state funds to farmers to reduce poverty and stimulate consumption. Yingluck’s scheme was expensive but also politically popular.

But none of this matters much in a political landscape of division that sometimes resulted in violence. The failures of the scheme were simply an excuse for another political execution.

Not unlike her brother’s situation when he was ousted by a coup in 2006, it was Yingluck’s electoral popularity that brought her downfall. Thailand’s political elite is suspicious of elected politicians and fears that “populist” policies threaten its social, economic and political control.

Often referred to as a royalist elite because of its allegiance to the monarchy and the support it has from palace figures, its actions have expunged three elected administrations since 2006. In that period, there have been two military coups, five prime ministers removed by the military or judiciary, and more than 200 pro-Thaksin politicians banned.

On top of these attacks on electoral democracy, hundreds of red shirts, Thaksin supporters and democracy advocates have been jailed. More than 100 people have been killed in political violence, mostly perpetrated by the military.

Having regained total control in May 2014 and ruling with an iron fist, the obvious question is why the military feels it must punish Yingluck. There are several reasons.

First, the junta is confident that it has broken the opposition associated with the Pheu Thai Party and the red shirt movement. Second, the junta is reasserting its anti-Thaksin credentials with the royalist street movement that paved the way for the coup and which has representatives in the assembly and other appointed bodies.

Third, and related, it wants no opposition as it crafts a new constitution that will alter the political rules to prevent any popular political party winning any national poll. Finally, the military wants to continue to steer political developments. There’s a good chance that the coup leader, General Prayuth Chan-ocha, will stay on as Prime Minister after elections.

The punishment is not over for Yingluck. The Attorney-General’s office has brought charges against her that could mean ten years in jail. Other courts are processing charges against several senior members of her party, including two former prime ministers.

Such actions are meant to silence critics and neuter the Pheu Thai Party. Extensive purges in all government agencies have removed officials deemed sympathetic to Pheu Thai, replacing them with political allies, many from the military.

When street protests sought to bring down Yingluck in early 2014, a complaint made of the military was that, following the 2006 coup, it did not demolish the “Thaksin regime”, allowing pro-Thaksin parties to win elections in 2007 and 2011. The junta is making sure that doesn’t happen again.

The junta hopes that the final act in this political drama will be an election where the result will at least be a royalist and pro-military government and more likely a military-dominated one. Whatever the outcome, it won’t be a democratic regime.

15 thoughts on “Yingluck Shinawatra Impeachment: An Execution of Thai Democracy

  1. I am surprised that these Thai generals have yet to strip Yingluck naked and rape her in the streets of Bangkok and then lynched her. And all these while Uncle Sam can only watch the show from outside. The so-called superpower and self-appointed global policeman is actually begging the generals who being lured by red China with goodies.

  2. You cannot ignore the intrigues of Palace officials in this impeachment. Thai democracy is just a farce. It has always been a military dictatorship legitimised by an aging King who is the source of moral authority for the Thai people.

  3. Yingluck Shinawatra is a Thai of Chinese descent. This – a top political leader of Chinese descent – is not an issue in Thai politics. (Unlike Malaysia, which stiil needs to grow up politically).

    Even Papua New Guinea has had a PM of Chinese descent i.e.
    Sir Julius Chan.

  4. The entire concept of democracy is a farce. Politicians in countries that claim to practise democracy bend and break the rules in whatever manner and whenever they like just to suit their own agenda. There are so many examples everywhere … Egypt … Malaysia … the US … and the way these politicians flocked to Saudi Arabia recently to pledge their allegiance is testimony of the global hypocrisy of democracy. And then, there is always the favourite excuse … “democracy is not perfect but it is the ‘best’ system we have at the moment”. Well, if some people stop peddling their brand of democracy and just leave the others alone, there will be other systems that will come up that may be better.

  5. And our PM flew there to thank the general for his assistance in helping us in the flood in December but didn’t fly to Singapore or China – the two biggest countries assisted us…. btw did Thailand even help us?

  6. Democracy has been MADE into a farce… largely because the check-and-balance systems in place have proved to be inadequate.

    Plug this weakness and perhaps we shall get somewhere.

    And yes, MUTHU… leave others alone to run their societies any way they like. It is peace and stability that is crucial for the welfare of the people.

  7. Well, i happen to think that no one wins in Thailand. Except paedophiles, libidinous (i.e hum-sup) monks and rentable surrogate mums.

    Yingluck has been pushing all sorts of rubbish her exiled taikor dreams up, including his clemency appeals, suspicious (err.., corrupt) rotten rice deals and dogged colour coded partisanship. Her foreign policy was to hoard rice at astronomical cost, then try to bat her eyelids at some poor sex-starved head-of-state-desperately-in-need-of China-Doll to buys it. So much for ethnically loaded comments.

    Now besides oil and natural gas, the world is seeing a glut of rice and palm oil. Is that why are we still selling our baby daughters to paedophiles?

  8. In every Third World Country the Military is the only organized institution that still has its basic command structure and strength. So when you go through the process of elimination you will end up with the Armed Forces that can run the country.I hope that politicians will learn from this and work towards the strengthening of the institutions of government and refrain from using the forms of democracy to undermine its substance.

  9. That is correct, TL Man… and that is why in Myanmar the lady did the right thing to end her two decade-long isolation and try to sit with the generals. Now, together they stand a better chance of taking the country forward.
    The opposite example is the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt who ought to have followed Myanmar’s example. Instead they decided the suicide tactic… and we can see the chaos that is Egypt today.

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