POLITICS AND POLITICAL PARTIES IN THAILAND: RED SHIRTS, YELLOW SHIRTS, CUSTOMS AND DIVISIONS

POLITICS IN THAILAND

In recent years mass demonstrations and people power politics have been used kind of like blackmail to threaten any government or court decision unhappy masses oppose. Such schemes have brought down governments, initiated coups, pressured courts and spurred early elections. Democracy is still a new concept in Thailand and things like transparency are new ideas. The political system is still going through a shake down period as it changes from the rule of men to the rule of law. See History.

Thai politics have been described as fluid and ever-changing and alternating between democratic tendencies and strongman rule, with the pendulum swing back and forth so that something that is popular one moment is tiresome the next. Political loyalties are fickle.

Thailand’s politics have been called "byzantine” and a "free for all with no one in charge." Over the years Thai politics have been characterized by backroom deals, under-the-table payments, pork-barrel projects, and schemes for personal enrichment. Individual politicians have been accused of running their district likes gang leaders and being involved in all sorts of unsavory activities such as extortion and drug dealing. Politicians used to routinely rewrite contracts to enrich themselves although such practices are said to be less common—or perhaps more discrete—than they were in the past.

In the 1990s, a number of special interest groups emerged that promoted human rights, environmental protection and rule of law. Demonstrations became more common. Among those that sought to have their concerns addressed were farmers and people affected by dam and pipeline projects. In the late 2000s and early 2010s large, well-organized mass rallies dominated the political scene. See Yellow Shirts and Red Shirts Below and Under History.

The World Bank`s World Governance Indicators, a set of estimates of political risk widely followed by investors, rated Thailand`s political stability at 44.7 out of 100 in 2003. By 2007 this had plunged to 16.8 – far below regional peers like Malaysia and South Korea, and not far above the Philippines.

Fortunetellers and Political Customs in Thailand

Politicians are regular visitors to fortunetellers and follow certain superstitions to help bring them good luck. After election victories, they have traditionally visited Buddhist temples to offer their thanks. Some seek special blessing from high ranking monks. Others carry sacred objects. One politician wore a different colored shirt every day because a fortuneteller told him it would bring good luck. In 1991, the finance ministers had a wooden elephant removed from the entrance of the finance ministry offices because a fortuneteller said it would bring him bad luck because the minister’s named means “horse” and horses and elephants are enemies.

Thai politician have traditionally consulted astrologers the same way politicians in other countries consult opinion polls. Many parties have their own lucky numbers. Seven was the umber for Thaksin’s Thai Rak Thai party. Sixteen has been a lucky number of the Democratic Party. The number 16 has connections with seven because one plus six, the digits of 16, equal seven.

Clashes sometimes occur between rival political parties. In July 2008, hundreds of pro-government and pro-Thaksin activists attacked an opposition rally with axes and sticks, injuring at least 20, three seriously, in the northeastern province of Udin Thani, regarded as a Thaksin stronghold.

Thai politicians are known for engaging in political stunts to draw attention to themselves. But sometimes for stunts go array. In the 2008 Bangkok mayor election one candidate—gregarious lawyer and make up saleswoman Leen Angjanya—bathed in Bangkok’s dirty canals to draw attention to a lack of clean water but in the process a campaign advisor drowned. In the same election massage parlor tycoon Chuwit Kamolvisit was riding high in the polls until was accused of punching a television announcer. After he dropped to third in the polls.

In Western democracies, there is a well established system of transitional government. There seems to be little of that in Thailand. When the Democratic Party was on the opposition bench in 2007, it set up a shadow Cabinet which was quickly branded as illegal as it challenged head-on with the government in power.

Politics and the media are hopelessly entangled in Thailand. The leader of the Yellow Shirt movement Sondi Limthongkul, a media mogul, used his television channel to promote the views and the interests of his political party and the Yellow Shirt movement. Thaksin did the same with his iTV television station while he served as prime minister in the early 2000s.

Political Divisions in Thailand

Politics in Thailand today is shaped by the sharp divide between the 1) urban middle class, the military and royalist elite on one side and the 2) more populous and impoverished masses in the countryside, who live mostly in northern and northeastern Thailand, on the other side.

Until recently the urban middle class was often behind the successful protest movements in Thailand, often with support from the monarchy and military. Some members of the Bangkok establishment have called for constitutional restrictions of democracy to reduce the influence of the rural voters—which they say susceptible to vote buying that breeds corruption—and want a parliament in which only 30 percent of the members are elected and most are appointed.

Thai society "does not address substantive issues: the two-tier justice, the balance of power, the role of Bangkok and the provinces," Arnaud Leveau, of the Research Institute on Contemporary Southeast Asia, told AFP. Tyrell Haberkorn, a political scientist with The Australian National University, said the violent 2010 protests stem from the outrage the marginalized majority feel at the lack of say they have in governance, which is largely in the hands of the elites. "If one listens to the protesters,” she said, “people are willing to risk their lives because they believe that they are making a more just Thai society for themselves, their children and their grandchildren.”

Blaine Harden wrote in the Washington Post: “The rise of a strong, rural-based political movement in Thailand has its roots in five decades of growth and modernization. This country has become the world's leading exporter of rice and is a major manufacturer of hard disks and other computer parts. Universal education and the reach of communications technology have raised material expectations and political ambitions, while lowering tolerance for a central government that ignores rural needs. "The Thai people now understand what politics can do for them -- and they believe it is a game not just for important people in Bangkok," said Jaran Ditapichai, a leader of the Red Shirts. [Source: Blaine Harden, Washington Post, May 1, 2010]

Is Thailand Really as Divided as People Say

The results of survey by the Asia Foundation of 1,500 Thai citizens conducted in September and October 2010 suggest citizens are not as politically divided as politicians, analysts, and the media frequently suggest. In reality, the mainstream Thai population (76 percent) professed no color attachment to either Yellow or Red movements. The data also reveals that there was considerable internal diversity or factionalism within these movements, with no consensus in citizen understanding of the primary objectives of the Yellow and Red movements. [Source: Asia Foundation, May 27, 2011 =]

Overall, the mood of the nation was slightly less pessimistic than it was in 2009. The survey reveals that 54 percent of Thai citizens in 2010 believed the country was moving in the wrong direction, down slightly from 58 percent in 2009. While 60 percent of respondents had cited the poor economy as the biggest problem facing Thailand in 2009, this perception decreased significantly to only 35 percent in 2010. Reflecting changes in the mood of Thai citizens between 2009 and the political turmoil that marked 2010, political conflict moved up the list of critical problems, cited by 42 percent of respondents versus 24 percent in 2009. =

Decentralization was also a key focus of the survey. A solid majority of 61 percent believed that decentralization would improve governance and reduce tensions. A strong majority of respondents (62 percent) also believed that decentralization might reduce the Red-Yellow conflict. Between 2009 and 2010 there was a significant increase (from 48 percent to 58 percent) in the percentage of respondents who thought that decentralization would help resolve the long-term conflict in the three southern border provinces. =

Yellow Shirts

The Yellow Shirts drew worldwide attentions when protests they led shut down Bangkok’s main international airport in 2008. They are regarded as being supported by urban middle class, the military and royalist elite, which is centered mainly in Bangkok. The Yellow Shirts regard themselves as the upholder of the values of King Bhumibol. Yellow has traditionally been the color of the Thai monarchy. The Yellow Shirts and supporters believed that one-person-one vote democracy doesn’t work so well in Thailand because rural masses are poorly educated, with the assumption being, they are unable exercise good judgment. The political pressure group at the heart of the Yellow Shirts is the People's Alliance for Democracy or PAD.

Chang Noi wrote in The Nation: “The roots of the yellow movement go back to 2005. Farmers, teachers, state enterprise workers, foes of free trade agreements, human rights defenders and environmental groups came out to oppose then prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra. This was a revival of the energetic civil activism of the 1990s that had been crushed in the early years of his government. [Source: Chang Noi, The Nation, May 4, 2009 ~]

“The second element was Sondhi Limthongkul and his urban audience. In the pre-crisis boom, Sondhi's Manager newspapers had best captured the confidence and aspirations of a new, modern middle class that saw themselves as the leaders of the future. Sondhi's split from Thaksin in 2005 may have resulted from personal conflict, but it also reflected a broader political shift. Many middle-class people were deserting Thaksin because of his corruption, growing authoritarianism and shift towards populism. They looked at both Thailand's large, remaining rural population and its corrupt, corner-cutting businessmen as drags on the country's conversion to first-world modernity.~

“After being thrown off television, Sondhi drew an audience to his Lumpini rallies and ASTV broadcasts by thundering against corruption and promising to lead a middle-class crusade to clean up politics. He also made common cause with the civil society activists by backing their causes and inviting them onto his stage. Still, the movement almost died in January 2006. Sondhi had already called a "farewell" rally when the Shin Corp sale was announced. Disgust at the trickery behind the sale deepened opposition to Thaksin across the middle class, but especially among the ranks of small businessmen, officials, professionals and white-collar workers who see themselves as respectable, honest, tax-paying citizens. ~

“The People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) was formed on February 9, 2006. The 15 founding members included Sondhi, leaders of students, teachers, workers, NGO activists other protest groups, and various artists. Chamlong joined a few days later. The civil activists recruited support through a dense web of personal networks woven from protest campaigns of past years. Chamlong brought along his "Dhamma Army" committed to this-worldly Buddhist activism, and his ranks of old, mainly lower middle-class admirers. Through ASTV, Sondhi broke the state's stifling grip on broadcast media, and created a new genre of political television that was fascinating simply because it was so novel. ~

“Sondhi swathed the movement in yellow, portrayed Thaksin as a threat to the monarchy and called for royal intervention to remove him. This provoked a crisis behind the PAD stage. Several civil activists objected to this strategy. Some peeled away, while others remained but with less influence over the movement. PAD started a debate on why Thai politics was dominated by a minority of not-so-honest businessmen, and how to move beyond this system so Thailand could progress. ~

In June 2009, the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) renamed itself the New Politics Party and applied for registration as a political party. The party said it also changed its colores to yellow and green (yellow to symbolize support for the King Bhumibol and the monrachy and green to signify “clean politics.”

Red Shirts

The Red Shirts are supporters of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra. They draw their ranks from the populous and impoverished masses in the countryside, who live mostly in northern and northeastern Thailand. After Abhisit Vejjajiva became prime minister in 2008 the “Red Shirts” became a major political force in Thai politics. On Thailand’s red white and blue flag, the red stands for nation, blue is for the monarchy and white is for Buddhism. The political pressure group at the heart of the Red Shirts is the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship or UDD.

Chang Noi wrote in The Nation: “The red movement has two main streams - hardcore Thaksin enthusiasts, and a broader audience that supports democracy and opposes military intervention in politics. Thaksin had won support in the Northeast and upper North among people who felt pandered to and empowered as never before. After the coup, they protested through community radio, and resisted military intimidation. [Source: Chang Noi, The Nation, May 4, 2009~]

“In parallel, anti-coup protests in the capital attracted a few thousand activists, mainly veterans of the democracy campaigns of 1973-6 and 1992. In February 2007, Thaksin loyalists tried to set up a cable TV network to rival ASTV but were blocked. Following the Yellow Shirt's example, they then took their campaign onto the street. In June, they announced a "united front", combining the democracy activists and Thaksin loyalists under one umbrella. Over the following months, they campaigned for the rejection of the junta's constitution. After the 2007 election, the movement became dormant but was revived in the following May to counter the PAD rallies. As governments were toppled, parties banned, ministers removed and more coups threatened, the movement attracted more support among people who felt democracy was under threat, including many who had earlier supported PAD. ~

“When the movement initiated mass rallies in October 2007, the audience included quotas bussed down by pro-Thaksin ex-MPs from the North and Northeast, along with growing numbers of walk-ins from the capital. In his early phone-ins, Thaksin talked mainly about himself, but soon switched his theme to reflect the changing weighting in the audience. He began to speak about "full democracy" and railed against its enemies.~

“In January 2008, the movement founded D-Station on the model of ASTV. In March it launched a mass protest in Bangkok and provincial centres. The appearance of the Red Shirts and Yellow Shirts is the most dramatic change in Thai politics in three decades. At the core of both is the rebirth of the civil society activism of the 1990s. The big innovation of these movements was to break the state's grip on the electronic media and so gain the means to recruit mass support through political broadcasting. ~

“Of course, in the background is Thaksin's money and ambition on one side, and military power and meddling on the other. But this should not be allowed to obscure what these movements stand for. Thai politics is often criticised for being dominated by small, self-serving cliques of businessmen and generals. Both these movements want to move beyond. Their main enemy is not each other, but the old, old politics desperate to resist this challenge. ~

Polarization of Thai Politics Between the Red Shirts and Yellow Shirts

Dr. Kantathi Suphamongkhon, the Foreign Minister under Thaksin, wrote in Global Viewpoint: “The hate campaign in Thailand, which started in 2005 and intensified in 2008, has been successful and has polarized the Thai society to an unprecedented degree.The success of the hate campaign owed much to the round-the-clock live television, broadcasting and reaffirming hate messages. This was supplemented by demonstrations and rallies, including the occupation of Government House and the closure of international airports by demonstrators wearing Yellow Shirts, members of the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD), determined to bring down several elected governments. The PAD has called for a parliament to be dominated by appointed, rather than elected members. [Source: Dr. Kantathi Suphamongkhon, Global Viewpoint, April 21, 2009. Suphamongkhon served as Foreign Minister of Thailand during the administration of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra from March 11, 2005, until the military coup d'etat on Sept. 19, 2006. He is currently Senior Fellow at the Burkle Center for International Relations at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) where he also teaches law and diplomacy++]

“In April 2009, following the examples set by the "Yellow Shirts", an opposing group of people, members of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), wearing Red Shirts, took to the streets to demand a return of full democracy to Thailand. A regional summit was abruptly cancelled as a result, and this time, the military reacted swiftly to enforce the law against the "Red Shirts". Opposing groups in Thailand now see the situation as a "zero sum game," in which if one side wins, the other side loses. With this attitude, there is no possibility of a settlement with mutual gains. ++

“As events developed following the coup, many Thais became convinced that there is a double standard in Thailand in which members of one side can break the law with impunity while members of the other side are subjected to maximum punishment. Both sides used strong personal attacks on key personalities, resorting to emotional accusations. In this way, action leads to reaction, escalating into violence. The situation is grim, and there is real potential for things to get worse, leading Thais into the abyss together. ++

Suggestions for Ending the Polarization of Thai Politics Between the Red Shirts and Yellow Shirts

Dr. Kantathi Suphamongkhon wrote in Global Viewpoint: A fresh start for Thailand is needed urgently. This means nothing less than the immediate change in assumptions and attitudes for all sides, followed immediately by constructive action. But how? 1. Thais must stop using their time, energy and brain power to attack and destroy one another. Instead, these resources should be used by Thais to jointly find solutions agreeable to all sides through constructive negotiation and dialogue. This means all sides must stop seeing the situation as a "zero sum game." Attitudes must change to enable all sides to see that a "positive sum game" or a "win-win" situation is possible, one in which all sides, by working together, can gain together and save the kingdom. [Source: Dr. Kantathi Suphamongkhon, Global Viewpoint, April 21, 2009++]

“2. Thais must separate the people from the problem -- and stop trying to find creative ways to destroy one another. We must resist the temptation to act against someone on the basis of assumptions based on rumors or unverified accusations. Personal attacks only lead to counter personal attacks and the hardening of opposite positions. This must end. 3. Instead of declaring positions and thinking that we cannot back down from the declared positions without losing face, let us focus on our underlying interests and work together to find common ground. We are all Thais. We have lived happily together for over 800 years. There is no reason why we cannot work together now. ++

“4. All Thais must have good reasons to be convinced that there is no double standard in Thailand. Due process of law must apply to all Thais, regardless of which side the person may be perceived to be from. All Thais, whether they are rich or poor, whether they are from Bangkok or from the rural areas, must be made to feel that they are all Thai citizens, with equal rights under the same law. This includes voting rights. 5. We should avoid the retroactive application of laws which take away people's rights, such as the one by which if one executive of a political party is found guilty of violating election law, the entire political party can be disbanded and all party executives lose their rights to vote in local and national elections and are prohibited from holding political positions for 5 years. In addition, the principle of proportionality should be applied when punishments are handed down by the courts. ++

“6. We must stop debating whether or not there is a double standard in Thailand from the 2006 coup d'etat, until now. Debates on this point are counterproductive, since they can only help entrench the polarized positions of each side. Except for very serious crimes of which the evidence is clear, the fact that a significant part of the Thai society feels that there is a double standard is enough to trigger amnesty across the political board. 7. Controversial provisions of the 2007 constitution must be revised to be more consistent with democracy. 8. The results of our next elections must be respected. All political parties have ample time to design effective strategies to win elections. Resorting to illegal means to reverse election results must not be condoned. I want to see the day when all Thais can walk proudly together, wearing whatever color shirts we like, uniting together in a just society and working together to enable the kingdom to succeed with flying colors under globalization.” ++

Relative Political Stability in Thailand in the 1980s

The relative stability of the Thai political system in the 1980s may prove to be a political watershed in modern Thai history. This stability, which resulted after several decades of spasmodic experimentation with democracy, could be attributed to the growing support of the monarchy and the traditionally dominant military-bureaucratic elite for parliamentary democracy. Evidently an increasing number of educated Thai had come to believe that a "Thai-style democracy" headed by the king and a parliament representing the people through political parties was preferable to excessively authoritarian rule under military strongmen. The future of parliamentary democracy was not a certainty, however, as many Thai continued to believe that democratic rule was not the most effective option in times of incompetent national leadership, prolonged civil and political disorder, or external threat to independence. [Source: Library of Congress **]

Despite a series of failed coups, in 1987 the military as a whole continued to play a major role in Thai politics. Increasingly, this role was tempered as so-called "enlightened" officers realized that a coup was no longer acceptable to the public and that the military could bring its influence to bear politically by working within the constitutional system. The military continued to believe, nonetheless, that politics and government were too important to be left entirely in the hands of civilian politicians, whom they tended to disdain as corrupt, divisive, and inefficient. **

In the 1980s, the governmental system remained unitary, with all important decisions emanating from the traditionally powerful bureaucratic elite in Bangkok. Composed of senior members of the civil and military wings of the bureaucracy, this elite dominated the governmental process from the national level down to the district level. In this process, the Ministry of Interior continued to play a key role as the administrative framework of the state, resisting reforms and changes. **

Political Parties in Thailand

Political parties have traditionally been coalitions of factions rather than political entities held together by an ideology or political leaning. Paul Chamber, a PH.D. student at Northern Illinois University wrote: “factionalism is so prominent that “most Thai political parties might be seen as mere mechanism with which power is shared and competed for among loosely organized factions.”

Results of the July 3, 2011 House of Representatives of Thailand Thai general election (seats and percentage of the vote: 1) Pheu Thai, 265 seats (204 constituency, 61 proportional), 53 Percent; 2) Democrat Party, seats 159 (115 constituency, 44 proportional), 31.percent; 3) Bhumjaithai, 34 seats (29 constituency, 5 proportional), 6.8 percent ; 4) Chartthaipattana, 19 seats (15 constituency, 4 proportional), 3.8 percent; 5) Chart Pattana Puea Pandin, 7 seats (5 constituency, 2 proportional), 1.4 percent; 6) Phalang Chon, 7 seats (6 constituency, 1 proportional), 1.4 percent; 7) Rak Thailand, 4 seats0.8 percent; 8) Matubhum, 2 seats, 0.4 percent; 9) Rak Santi, 1 seat 0.2 percent; 10) Mahachon, 1 seat 0.2 percent ; 10) New Democracy, 1 0.2 percent. [Source: Wikipedia]

Major political parties in 2006 included: the Phak Prachathipat Party (Democratic Party); Thai Rak Thai Party (Thai Loves Thai Party); Phak Mahachon Party (Great People’s Party); and Phak Chat Thai Party (Thai Nation Party). Other political parties: New Aspiration Party (NAP), founded in 1990 by former prime minister General Chavalit Yongchaiyudh; The Chart Thai (Thai Nation) party is the party of former Prime Minister Banharn Silpa-archa.

Political parties in Thailand as of 2012 and their leaders: Chat Pattana Party or CPN (Nation Development Party [Wannarat Channukun]; Chat Thai Phattana Party or CTP (Thai Nation Development Party) [Chumpon Silpa-archa]; Phalang Chon Party (People [Chonburi] Power Party) [Chao Manivong]; Phumjai (Bhumjai) Thai Party or PJT (Thai Pride) [Boonjong Wongtrairat (Acting)]; Prachathipat Party or DP (Democrat Party) [Abhisit Wechachiwa, also spelled Abhisit Vejjajiva];Puea Thai Party (For Thais Party) or PTP [Charuphong Rueangsusan also spelled Jarupong Ruangsuwan]; Rak Prathet Thai Party (Love Thailand Party) [Chuwit Kamonwisit] [Source: CIA World Factbook]

Matubhum is made up of mostly Muslim politician from the insurgency-hit southern provinces of Thailand that border Malaysia. It is lead by former army chief Sondhi Boonyaratglin, the general who led the 2006 coup that ousted former Prime Minister Thaksin.

For a time The Chart Thai Party held some influence. Sometimes called the "generals' party," it was founded in 1974 by a group of retired generals and was led until July 1986 by Pramarn Adireksan, retired major general and former president of the Association of Thai Industries and the Thai Textile Association. Aggressively anticommunist, Chart Thai was backed by a number of prominent industrialists. After the July 1986 election, it was led by retired General Chatichai Choonhaven. [Library of Congress]

Ruling Party of Thailand: Puea Thai Party

Ruling party: Puea Thai Party (“For Thais” Party) is the party of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. It is an avatar of the Thai Rak Thai Party (“Thai Loves Thai” Party or the Thai Patriot’s Party), the party of ousted Prime Minister Thaksin. That party was renamed Peoples Power Party and that was renamed the Puea Thai Party. Puea Thai Party is strong in rural areas, particularly in the north and northeast.

Puea Thai Party is regarded as the part of the rural masses. Michael Nelson, a visiting professor at Chulalongkorn University, told AFP: “Upcountry people have had the role of obedient children. They have never been figured as a genuine political force, ad this has changed tremendously in the past few years.” Some supporters of Thaksin and Puea Thai Party are known as Red Shirts.

Major Opposition Party: The Democratic Party

Major opposition party: The Democratic Party is the party of former Prime Ministers Chuan Leekpai and Abhisit Vejjajiva. It is the oldest political party in Thailand. It has traditionally been strong in Bangkok and southern Thailand. The Democrat Party is considered to be somewhat liberal, despite its beginning in 1946 as a conservative, monarchist party.

For many years The Democratic Party was is seen by many Thais as the most consistent advocate of democracy. Today it the party of the Yellow Shirt and the Bangkok-based elite that includes the monarchy, military, bureaucracy, and ostensibly represents the Thai middle class.

History of Political Parties in Thailand

The concept of party politics dated back to the early 1930s, but its impact was generally insignificant, having been overshadowed by the military-bureaucratic elite. The struggle for power was nearly always settled by coup, and the pluralistic demands of the society were accommodated through either bureaucratic channels or patron-client connections. For decades political parties had an uncertain status. When they existed, they did so at the sufferance of generals, who abolished or revived them at will. Parties were unable to maintain continuity, nor could they develop a mass base. Part of the problem was the bad image of partisan politics, which the politicians brought on themselves through their unscrupulous pursuit of self-interest. [Library of Congress**]

Party politics received a major impetus from the student uprising of October 1973. Forty-two parties participated in the 1975 parliamentary election, and thirty-nine participated the following year. The freewheeling partisan politics during the so-called democratic period of 1973-76 ended in the coup of October 1976. Kriangsak, the army commander in chief, appointed a civilian-led government, but the Thanin Kraivichien regime turned out to be overly repressive and was overthrown in 1977. Assuming the office of prime minister himself, Kriangsak permitted the resumption of party politics banned by Thanin. Of the 39 parties that took part in the April 1979 election, 7 parties captured about 70 percent of the 301 contested seats. **

As a result of the confusion stemming from the proliferation of minor parties, a new political parties act was passed in July 1981. The act, which became effective in 1983, specified that to participate in an election, a party must have a minimum of 5,000 members spread throughout the country's four geographical regions. In each region, at least five provinces must have members, the minimum per province being fifty. The membership requirement was designed to foster the development of mass-based parties catering to broad national interests rather than narrow, sectional interests. Another provision of the act stipulated that a party must put up candidates for at least half the total lower house seats, or 174 seats. As a result, in the 1983 and 1986 elections, the number of participating parties was reduced to fourteen and sixteen, respectively. In order to satisfy the legal requirements, some parties fielded candidates recruited from among recent college graduates. ** In the 1980s, the country's multiparty system continued to suffer from traditional long-standing problems. These included organizational frailty and lack of discipline, endemic factionalism, the emphasis on personalities over issues, and the politicians' penchant for vote-buying and influence-peddling. Parties were formed, as before, by well-known or wealthy individuals to promote their own personal, familial, parochial, or regional interests. Observers expressed concern that failure to improve the party system could result in a return to authoritarian military rule. The perception that political parties and politicians were unworthy of trust was widespread in 1987. **

Image Sources:

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Tourist Authority of Thailand, Thailand Foreign Office, The Government Public Relations Department, CIA World Factbook, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Global Viewpoint (Christian Science Monitor), Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, NBC News, Fox News and various books and other publications.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated May 2014

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