วันศุกร์, สิงหาคม 05, 2559
BANGKOK, THAILAND – AUGUST 4: A Thai motorcycle taxi driver rests amidst flags promoting Thai constitution referendum during an event organized by the Election Commission of Thailand, on August 4, 2016 in Bangkok, Thailand. Thailand’s military government will hold a referendum on August 7 in which 51 million eligible voters are set to decide the future of the country’s latest draft constitution. Based on reports, Thai official expects record turnout for the unpredictable referendum as polls show voters appear to be deeply divided over it. (Photo by Dario Pignatelli/Getty Images)
No Silver Bullet In Ballot For Thailand's Generals
By Harrison Cheng
SINGAPORE – Thailand goes to the polls this Sunday. They will vote whether to endorse a draft constitution that will entrench the military’s political influence beyond the next general elections tentatively scheduled for mid-2017. Drawn up by a military-appointed committee, the draft constitution breaks decisively from the country’s previous 2007 constitution. The latter was scrapped when the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO, ruling junta) took power in a May 2014 coup. The generals want to replace it with a draft that allows for an unelected prime minister and a fully appointed senate (upper house of parliament), where previously the prime minister and nearly half of the senate had to be filled by elected officials.
The NCPO wants the draft passed to restore some semblance of legitimacy amid rising discontent with its rule. Crucially, the draft will also enable the generals and their royalist allies to more easily oust future elected governments who threaten their stranglehold on power. Their guns have long been trained on former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra (2001-06), whose political parties have won every election they have contested since 2001. The draft will lay the foundations to systematically undermine the next government, likely led by Thaksin’s Puea Thai Party which governed until the 2014 coup.
In our most likely scenario, the public rejects the draft, albeit narrowly. Puea Thai, which commands widespread support in the populous north and north-east, has stridently criticised the draft for being undemocratic. The Democrat Party (DP), the other major political party, is clearly uncomfortable with the draft. Its leader Abhisit Vejjajiva for the first time on 27 July stated affirmatively that he did not approve of the draft. A cautious player, Abhisit likely did so only because it seemed like a politically safe choice – that sentiment in the DP’s core constituencies in the capital Bangkok and the south had shifted decisively against the draft. The DP’s support for the last constitutional referendum under junta rule (in 2007, after the 2006 coup against Thaksin’s government) was critical to its eventual passage.
Continued instability, capricious future
Regardless of the outcome, the generals are here to stay for the next twelve months – but so will political instability and its adverse implications for the business climate. A negative referendum result means the NCPO will have a harder time trying to curb dissent beyond the immediate aftermath. An imminent popular revolt in Bangkok remains unlikely given the junta’s firm grip on security. But junta leaders lack the requisite savviness to moderate their unpopular, heavy-handed approach to governance. Further missteps are likely and will feed growing public sentiments that the junta has overstayed its welcome, even among those who supported the 2014 coup. This is likely to translate into more diverse public support for future protests.
Businesses in Bangkok are unlikely to be directly targeted in such protests. However, they will remain exposed to indirect security risks arising from nearby protests, and intermittent but serious security incidents like the August 2015 bombing in Bangkok. Perpetrators are likely to come from the ranks of disgruntled groups within the establishment and rogue elements within the ‘red shirt’ movement that supports Thaksin. Unsophisticated explosives are common, but higher-grade explosives and grenades are also possible weapons of choice.
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