This year, Prachatai recognises the People’s Health System Movement as its Person of the Year, for its relentless efforts to protect Thailand’s universal healthcare scheme from the junta’s threats. Who is the People’s Health System Movement (PHSM)? The PHSM emerged almost two decades ago under the leadership of Dr. Sanguan Nitayarumphong.
As the general election is scheduled less than one year from now, people are wondering whether the Thai junta will allow more freedom of association and assembly ahead of the election campaigns. We saw mixed signals last week. Meanwhile, a legal adviser to the junta has suggested ways to amend the election law, which may result in the postponement of the election.
Citing political unrest, the junta has shown its reluctance to allow more political freedom for politicians to prepare for the long-awaited election. Even the chairman of the junta-appointed charter drafting committee has expressed concern. Though the Organic Act on Political Parties was endorsed on 8 October, the military government still prohibits politicians from campaigning and preparing for the long-awaited election in November next year.
Despite its efforts to regain mass support, the junta is facing a backlash for cracking down on anti-power plant protesters and a series of ham-fisted statements. Southerners used to play an active role in the anti-election movement, the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC), that paved the way for the 2014 coup. However, over the past three years, the ruling junta has put in place various policies that have affected the livelihood of southerners, such as regulations on fishing and plans for coal-fired power plan
As the death of a freshman cadet continues to trigger public outrage, Thai cadets are taking to social media to defend brutal corporal punishment at military academies. Thai social media last week was overwhelmed by the death of freshman cadet Phakhaphong Tanyakan, whose internal organs were inexplicably missing from his corpse when returned to his family.
In a move that raised eyebrows among human right advocates, the junta announced on 21 November, after three years in power, that human rights would be incorporated into the regime’s so-called Thailand 4.0 sustainable development initiative.
On 8 November 2017, junta head Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha posed six questions to the Thai people, seeking their opinions on Thai politics and politicians, and the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO). The questions have been interpreted as an indication that the junta is considering prolonging its power in the post-election era through military-supported political parties. Prayut intends to assign the Interior Ministry to collect responses from across the country. He did the same thing in May with four questions on elections.
In the aftermath of mourning for the late King, a provincial governor has faced a furious protest for his failure in organising a local cremation ceremony while the junta’s organic laws have caused public concern. After the royal cremation on 26 October, King Maha Vajiralongkorn allowed the cremation site to be open to the public throughout November.
While Thailand last week was overwhelmed by mourning for the late King Bhumibol, other significant issues seem to have been overlooked, such as serious flooding, the arrest of a former lèse majesté convict and use of the junta’s absolute power. The year-long mourning for the late King Bhumibol has now ended and the Thai people are returning to normal, colourful life.
A rock singer’s charity campaign has sparked debate over the ethics of donations, while a senior academic is facing a lèse majesté lawsuit for criticising King Naresuan, who ruled the kingdom of Ayutthaya 400 years ago. Thailand’s lèse majesté law is notorious for its excessive punishments and broad interpretations.