Risks Rise That Military Could Outstays Its Welcome
BMI View: We have upgraded our short-term political risk rating for Thailand owing to the renewed stability provided by the military's tight grip on power, and the improvement in policy enactment. However, while we believe that a return to civilian rule will be forthcoming over the next 1-2 years, the lack of clarity regarding so-called democratic reforms raises the likelihood that a well-functioning democracy will not be the end result.
Short-term political stability has been restored since the Thai military seized power in a coup in May. The banning of protests and implementation of curfews has seen incidences of violent clashes between the Red Shirts and Yellow Shirts die down greatly. The hope is that with violence having subdued, opposing forces can work together on a solution to the recurring crisis. However, little progress has been made, and while the military has continued to claim that democratic reforms are needed before the country can return to civilian rule, the lack of clarity is fanning concerns that the military will remain in power for an extended period, raising risks of a Red Shirt backlash.
In the first sign of any organised opposition to the military, exiled Thai minister Charupong Reuangsuwan is seeking to work with fellow dissidents to restore 'democratic principles' by organising resistance to the military both inside and outside the country, under the name of The Organisation of Free Thais for Human Rights and Democracy (also known as Seri Thai, named after the group that fought against Japanese occupation during World War Two). It is not yet clear from which country the new organisation will operate, although Charupong is thought to be in Cambodia working alongside Jakrapob Penkair, an outspoken Red-Shirt activist and former minister who fled from lese majeste charges in 2009.