Thailand is on the cusp of monumental change as a military regime prepares to loosen its grip on power. But how will this change affect the legal landscape? John Church reports
If no one changes the script at the last minute, Thailand is poised for its first democratic election since a 2014 military coup. The poll is scheduled for 24 February 2019.
The term “democratic election” is used in a looser sense, considering political gatherings were banned until only recently, in December, and the slapped-together opposition parties that have since registered, or are still waiting to have registrations approved, are contending with a well-oiled pro-regime party (Palang Pracharath, or PPRP). Late changes to 350 electoral boundaries have caused a supposedly independent Electoral Commission to come under fire with claims of gerrymandered electorates, and reports of massive vote buying in the form of regime handouts to low-income earners and the elderly have also emerged.
But things must at least be seen to be on the democratic uptick if Thailand is to see a return of much-needed Western foreign investment, and if the country is to rejoin the fold of countries developed enough to rule by methods other than authoritarian.
“The elections in Thailand are very important as the world will be watching,” says Franck Fougere, managing director of Ananda Intellectual Property law firm, foreign trade adviser to the French government and former president of the Franco-Thai Chamber of Commerce. “It is time for Thailand to return to a true democratic regime and the elections are a clear opportunity to boost investor confidence in the country and increase foreign direct investment. Hopefully, Thailand will send a strong signal to the world that it has appeased its internal political divisions and successfully managed to preserve good economic growth while bringing back democracy to the people.”