IHS Country Risk - Thai protest, judicial coup


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IHS Country Risk - Thai protest, judicial coup

  1. 1. IHS Country Risk Research Note: The latest probe by the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) against Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra indicates an increased risk of the opposition attempting to topple the Pheu Thai Party (PTP) government via a ‘judicial coup’, according to Alecia Quah, Senior Analyst at IHS Country Risk. For interviews or questions, please contact her directly via Alecia.Quah@ihs.com or Press@ihs.com. For live TV interviews, please contact Amarjit Singh via Amarjit.Singh@ihs.com. -0- Possible Ousting of Pheu Thai Government via Judicial Coup Would Increase Risks of Violent Pro-government Protests 20 January 2014 Thailand's National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) announced on 16 January that it would investigate Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra of the Pheu Thai Party (PTP) following allegations of corruption, while on the same day the police announced the establishment of a special unit to arrest the main anti-government protest leader, Suthep Thaugsuban. Coupled with the improvised
  2. 2. explosive device (IED) blasts over the weekend (18-19 Jan) that targeted an opposition rally and injuring scores of people, such developments indicate that Thailand's political paralysis is likely to extend past the 2 February election. Toppling government via judicial coup The political paralysis is likely to continue as both sides have upped the ante. On 16 January, National Police Chief Adul Saengsingkaew appointed a special team to arrest Thaugsuban, who is likely to be protected by armed security personnel. On the opposition front, steps are under way to facilitate a potential judicial coup, according to which legal measures would be deployed to prevent the PTP from forming a government, even if it wins the election. Anti-government protests in December 2013 successfully blocked at least 120 candidates from registering at 37 constituencies across 7 southern provinces. Candidates have only registered for 94% of the 500 seats in the House of Representatives, which is below the 95% legal minimum. Aside from issues concerning the legitimacy of holding the election that the opposition has boycotted, failure to reach the 95% threshold means that the winning party will be unable to open parliament. Separately, the NACC has announced its unanimous agreement to investigate corruption allegations against Yingluck in connection with her government's rice-pledging scheme. Under Section 272 of the 2007 Constitution, once the NACC passes a resolution against a public office holder confirming a prima facie case of corruption, the office holder
  3. 3. cannot perform their duties until the Senate passes a resolution. Under Section 270, the Senate may remove the prime minister and members of the House of Representatives on grounds of corruption. The Constitutional Court has also issued two other rulings that may potentially become relevant in any strategy to stage a judicial coup. On 20 November 2013, the court ruled that the PTP's proposal to make Thailand's Senate a fully elected body was unconstitutional, but stopped short of dissolving the party. On 8 January 2014, the court issued another verdict overruling the party's attempt to amend the constitution to reduce the scope of parliamentary approval for overseas treaties. Following the court's November ruling on the Senate amendment, the NACC launched impeachment and criminal investigations against 383 politicians (primarily from the PTP). The NACC also invited the Constitutional Court judges to testify in its investigations. In the future, the PTP could well respond by naming other candidates for office. However, those politicians under investigation would have to appear to answer the charges. The NACC could also widen its investigations to include other PTP politicians. These developments would undermine the ruling party's ability to form a government. Outlook & Implications:
  4. 4. The anti-government street protests are likely to escalate if the police arrest Thaugsuban successfully, who apparently narrowly avoided the 17 January IED attack. Thaugsuban has been heading the antigovernment protests since November 2013 and has gained a significant public support, and he is unlikely to surrender willingly. His supporters would be equally likely to view his arrest as an attempt to undermine the legitimacy of their own protest movement and would be likely to take to the streets to contest his arrest. Likewise, any successful assassination attempt on Thaugsuban would prompt a similar opposition response. Further ahead, anti-government protesters are likely to rally at polling stations on 2 February to disrupt the vote in Bangkok. This is likely to result in confrontations between protesters and police, who are likely to respond with tear gas if violence breaks out. Equally, opposition attempts to prevent the PTP from forming a government after the election increase the risks of pro-government Red Shirt demonstrations. The Red Shirts have thus far refrained from staging prolonged rallies in order to avoid confrontations with antigovernment protesters. If the opposition attempts to oust their elected prime minister via what would amount to a judicial coup, Red Shirts are likely to stage counter-rallies in the north and northeast. There is also an increased risk of hardline Red Shirt elements launching violent counter-rallies in the capital.
  5. 5. Danny Cheung Asia Pacific Director of Corporate Communications Asia Square Tower 1 8 Marina View, Singapore 018960 www.ihs.com Desk: +65 6439 6192 Mobile: +65 9171 3200 Fax: +65 6439 6001 danny.cheung@ihs.com  Please consider the environment before printing this e-mail. This email message is for the sole use of the intended recipient(s) and may contain confidential and privileged information. Any unauthorized review, use, disclosure or distribution is prohibited. If you are not the intended recipient, please contact the sender by reply e-mail and destroy all copies of the original message. Thank you.