ANFREL Expresses its Condemnation of Thai Military’s Coup D’état & ongoing Military Rule
BANGKOK, 26 May 2014 – The Asian Network for Free Elections (ANFREL) Foundation today expressed its condemnation of the Thai military’s May 22nd coup and the subsequent collapse of democratic rights that has followed. Thursday’s military takeover is a grave violation of the fundamental rights of all Thais, no matter their affiliation, and it fails as a step towards a sustainable political solution just as the last coup failed eight short years ago. Further, there is the risk that coup leaders’ imposition of restrictions on freedom of expression and the right to assembly will in the long run deepen the damage already done to Thailand’s democratic development.
“Undemocratic methods to seize power in Thailand violate fundamental commitments Thailand has made to both the international community and, more importantly, the Thai people,” ANFREL Chairman Damaso Magbual stated. He continued, “everyone in Thailand, regardless of their color or affiliation, should express their desire for a restoration of basic civil and political rights and a quick return to representative democracy that includes elections as a foundational principle.”
Given the troubling events of the past five days, democracy loving people on both sides of the divide should now come together to reject the country’s culture of coup-making in order to ensure that this is Thailand’s final coup. Recovery from the coup should therefore include a recommitment by all parties to the electoral process while continuing to seek reform from within a democratic framework. After all, there is no replacement for elections, they are the foundation of every democracy where they serve as the primary means of sharing power, determining the policy direction of the country, and providing the democratic legitimacy necessary to govern.
While an individual Election may have results favoring one side or another, Elections themselves and the Electoral system of Thailand have no intrinsic bias. Elections are not a luxury to be held only when ‘perfect’ conditions have been attained. Rather, they are a method of conflict resolution and can exist in parallel with a substantive reform process. Similarly, a preference for elections should never be dismissed as a partisan opinion. The politicizing and blocking of elections as a whole without cause and without sincere, democratic alternatives is a dangerous strategy that paralyses Thailand while leaving it with few good options for conflict resolution.
This fact reveals why a quick return to elections is important. A protracted period of military rule or a reform process dictated by military appointment is unlikely to solve Thailand’s problems. Indeed, experience from other countries shows that an inclusive reform process, usually including elections or referendum, rather than a one-sided ‘reform’ of the rules, is more likely to result in a sustainable democratic peace. To lessen the harmful impact of the coup and move the country in a sustainable democratic direction, ANFREL hopes that coup leaders quickly restore civilian control of government administration, return all rights to the Thai people, including journalists, academics, and activists, and move forward towards elections in a timely manner.