Thailand to Have Elections in a Year as Shinawatra Contacts Supporters

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On May 30, coup d’etat leader General Prayuth Chan-ocha announced that elections would not take place in Thailand for a year. He added that resistance was not encouraged, as he wants to restore happiness in the country. “Give us time to solve the problems for you. Then the soldiers will step back to look at Thailand from afar,” he said in the televised address. The next day, the heads of 56 state enterprises were given until noon Monday to turn in reviews of their practices for the upcoming year or to resign.

There have been no recent reports of former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s whereabouts until June 1. She contacted supporters via Facebook by writing, “I would like to thank you again for the support for me all along. I would also like to extend my moral support to all Thais.” The coup has Thailand’s democracy in question to some, especially because of the year long wait for elections ordered by the junta.

Known as the Land of Smiles, Thailand has been under a military junta since the May 22 coup. This is the second time a coup has happened here in eight years, with siblings being ousted by dramatic shifts in power.

Ms. Shinawatra (pictured above) was ordered to step down on May 7 by the Constitutional Court of Thailand amid an investigation regarding millions of rice farmers who have yet to be paid. There has been six months of political crises in the country. Since November, 800 protesters have been injured along with 28 reported deaths. Along with cabinet members and other politicians on the day of the coup, the ousted prime minister was arrested and detained in a military camp in central Thailand for several days. Shinawatra was freed and ordered to report to the junta on May 24, along with 100 others.

Martial law was imposed two days before the numerous arrests by Gen. Prayuth and included an evening curfew. Independent media coverage has been prohibited, as well as any resistance to the junta’s plans. Reports from the country have said that not much has changed since the coup. Selfies with militia have become popular in recent weeks, with many Thai nationals still smiling despite Internet restrictions.

The last coup, in 2008, saw former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra a telecommunications billionaire, overthrown while he was in New York City for the annual U.N. General Assembly. He has been in self-imposed exile since. His sister became prime minister in 2011 following a landslide victory in elections.

Tourists to the popular destination are still able to travel safely, but all foreigners have been strongly advised to carry their passports at all times. American travelers have been warned against nonessential travel by the State Department. Sixty-two countries have also issued similar warnings, with 19 of them placing travel to Thailand on red alert.

The U.S. serves as Thailand’s third largest trade partner, after China and Japan. Ties include foreign investment in petroleum. Approximately two-thirds of Thailand’s citizens are involved in rice production, which is the country’s top export. Thailand is Southeast Asia’s second largest economy after Indonesia.

Thailand witnessed a historical high in tourist arrivals last year, with American arrivals surpassing one million. However, there has been a decrease in tourist arrivals since January of this year. Tourism remains a priority and eve curfews have been relaxed in some hot spots to encourage vacationers to continue to visit.

It is unclear which side the junta favors, amid the tension between the rich and the poor in Thailand. The overthrown government believes that the coup supports the elite, while the junta wants to ensure electoral reform ahead of the promised elections next year in a bid to curb possible corruption.

By Sibylla Chipaziwa

Sources:
ABC News
U.S. Department of State: U.S. Passports & International Travel
Bangkok Post
The Wall Street Journal
Thailand News
Thailand News 2
Global Post
Trading Economics
Tourism Authority of Thailand Newsroom
Observatory of Economic Complexity

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