IHS Country Risk
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.
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
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
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
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:
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
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.
Asia Pacific Director of Corporate
Asia Square Tower 1
8 Marina View, Singapore
+65 6439 6192
Mobile: +65 9171 3200
+65 6439 6001
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