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Home  >>  Strategy and Policy Watch  >>  In defence of martial law in Thailand

In defence of martial law in Thailand

Just days after the Thai military declared martial law in Thailand, international media, politicians and organizations were quick to condemn the military for usurping power from the care-taker government. Even the United Nations (UN) which is traditionally late to wake up to political crises responded in lighting speed by condemning the act of the military.

The international reaction is only added evidence to the cliché response that it evokes in similar situations, paying little heed to the political situation in the country. For the record, Thailand was subject to military rule 18 times since 1932. The Royal Thai Armed Forces have a history of taking control of governance every time the country slides to a political crisis.

With personnel strength of over 850,000 a coup can be staged with least effort, but the military has clearly stated that it is not its intention to act so. The Thai military has traditionally functioned to safeguard the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Kingdom of Thailand.

In 1932 in played a crucial role in supporting the Thai public in achieving the democratic revolution, freeing them from the rule of Kingdom of Siam. Then on the military has literally played the role of a bulwark, retrieving it from sliding into a governance break down and guiding it through change of leaderships over the years.

But the current role that it has assumed is slightly different than the usual and it is to facilitate mediation between the ruling and opposition parties, who defy adhering to the rules of peaceful political negotiation in the absence of a powerful arbitrator. The army had restrained itself from intervening into the political crisis until recently when the dismissal of care taker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra by the country's top court created a near power vacuum in the country, setting ablaze protests and unrest.

Ever since the Thais unfurled the democratic revolution in 1932, the politics of Thailand is marked by fighting and deep rooted rivalry among old and new elites. The latest anti-government protest was staged to end the alleged influence of ousted former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra in Thai politics. The protests erupted after Yingluck Shinawatra's, sister of Thaksin, government attempted to pass an amnesty legislation that pardons participants of unrest incidents in the country since 2004, a bill that could have allegedly pardoned and brought back Thaksin to the country.

Though the government gave up attempts to pass the bill after it was dismissed by the opposition Democrat party and the pro-government Red Shirt party, the opposition took hold of the opportunity to oust Yingluck. In mid-November anti-government activists attempted to wrest control from the Yingluck government by occupying government offices and unleashing widespread protest. The anti-government protesters were uncompromising to the suggestion to hold fresh elections and wanted to institute an unelected people's council to oversee constitutional governmental reforms.

The opposition clearly refused to cooperate to settle differences through negotiation and unleashed fresh protest resulting in the government’s declaration of a state of emergency. The Shutdown Bangkok slogan paralyzed the whole of Bangkok freezing sectors such as public governance, education and tourism. The constitutional court's invalidation of the February election and the removal of Yingluck only resulted in worsening the political crisis in the country.

The Thai military entered the frame at this juncture to facilitate talks between the government, weakened by the ouster of Yingluck, and the opposition. It is no secret that the Thai public appreciates the timely action of the military which has helped in repealing unrest that rocked the country for months. An opinion poll conducted by Suan Dusit in May 21, 2014, revealed that 75.95 percent of the respondents favoured martial law as a solution to end the political violence.

The military is expected to be in charge to facilitate a dialogue between the care taker government and the opposition, as long as fresh election remains a solution dismissed by the opposition. With the monarch remaining as only a titular head, it is appreciable that the Thai military assumed charge to resolve the political deadlock to which solutions are not easy to suggest.

As long as the military sticks to its 'No coup' strategy, the martial law will only aid Thailand to return to its normalcy and institute a stable governance mechanism uninterrupted by power mongers.

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