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Southeast Asian lawmakers urge Thailand’s new government to fulfill promise of change

ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) issued a statement today (25 August) welcoming the appointment of Srettha Thavisin as Thailand's new Prime Minister and urging the new government to fulfill promise of change and pave the way for genuine democracy that respects rights of all.

Srettha Thavisin (Photo from Pheu Thai Party press team)

Southeast Asian Parliamentarians welcome the appointment of Thailand’s 30th Prime Minister, Srettha Thavisin, after an extended period of delays following the country’s general elections in May 2023 and urge his leadership to fulfill his promise of change after years of democratic deterioration and human rights violations. 

ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) remains deeply concerned with the systemic problems that are entrenched within Thailand’s current political and legal frameworks. These problems not only hinder the full representation of the people’s will but they have been used time and again to curtail fundamental freedoms.

“It is concerning that the current system in Thailand permitted the largest winning political party in the elections to be excluded from the ruling coalition. The lopsidedness of the system appears to be the biggest factor and therefore comprehensive reforms need to take place to change the status quo. Crucial to this is the full review of the current junta-drafted constitution wherein any  amendments made should be towards paving the way for Thailand to fully embody democracy, one that actively champions and safeguards human rights for all.”said Charles Santiago, APHR Co-Chairperson and Former Member of Malaysia’s Parliament. 

In its present form, the Thai constitution has a bicameral parliament, with a 250-person Senate that is effectively appointed by the Royal Thai Military. Any attempt to amend the constitution requires the backing of at least one-third of all senators. Regrettably, the military’s prominent role and influence in Thai politics eroded the nation’s democratic fabric. Thailand has experienced numerous coups in the past decades, disrupting elected governments to the detriment of its people. Under military rule for five years  from 2014 to 2019 and a military-dominated government thereafter, draconian measures have been used to suppress freedoms of expression, assembly, and association. These lead to massive demonstrations from 2020 to 2021. 

Clearly in the recent polls, an overwhelming majority of voters voiced their disapproval of the military through the ballots.

“The new government should not waste time in instituting reforms to realize the aspirations of the people. Key on the agenda should be the restoration and rebuilding of democracy and its institutions, putting an end to the role of military in politics, addressing economic inequalities, and providing redress to all injustices committed against the people,” 

“We have consistently advocated a people-centered governance where processes are participatory and citizens are empowered. For Thailand, a pivotal reform is the need to decentralize power to local governments. This way, government services are going to be more attuned to the needs, and within reach, of the people.”  Santiago said.

Thailand faces a myriad of challenges. The years of political instability in the country has directly impacted the expansion of the wealth gap in Southeast Asia’s second largest economy with concentration of wealth remaining at the hands of the few and powerful, further marginalizing the already disadvantaged. It is therefore imperative for the incoming government to take immediate action to usher in a new era of progress, one that is inclusive, promotes social cohesion, and respects all human rights.

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