Government of Thailand
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The Government of Thailand, or formally the Royal Thai Government (RTG) (Thai: รัฐบาลไทย; rtgs: Ratthaban Thai), is the unitary government of the Kingdom of Thailand. The country emerged as a modern nation state after the foundation of the Chakri Dynasty and the city of Bangkok in 1782. The Revolution of 1932 brought an end to absolute monarchy and replaced it with a constitutional monarchy.
From then on the country was ruled by a succession of military leaders installed after coups d’etat, the most recent in May 2014, and a few democratic intervals. The 2007 Constitution (drafted by a military-appointed council, but approved by a referendum) was annulled by the 2014 coup-makers who run the country as a military dictatorship.
Thailand has so far had seventeen Constitutions. Throughout, the basic structure of government has remained the same. The government of Thailand is composed of three branches: the executive, the legislative, and the judiciary. The system of government is modelled after the Westminster system. All branches of government are concentrated in Bangkok, the capital city of Thailand.
Since May 2014 Thailand has been ruled by a military junta, the National Council for Peace and Order, which has partially repealed the 2007 constitution, declared martial law and nationwide curfew, banned political gatherings, arrested and detained politicians and anti-coup activists, imposed internet censorship and taken control of the media.
The King of Thailand, King Vajiralongkorn (or Rama X), is the current monarch, reigning since the death of his father Bhumibol Adulyadej (Rama IX) on 13 October 2016, in actuality he has only exercised the role of monarch since 1 December 2016. The constitution stipulates that although the sovereignty of the state is vested in the people, the king will exercise such powers through the three branches of the Thai government. Under the constitution the king is given very little power, but remains a figurehead and symbol of the Thai nation. As the head of state, however, he is given some powers and has a role to play in the workings of government. According to the constitution, the king is head of the armed forces. He is required to be Buddhist as well as the defender of all faiths in the country. The king also retained some traditional powers such as the power to appoint his heirs, the power to grant pardons, and the royal assent. The king is aided in his duties by the Privy Council of Thailand.
The king is also head of the House of Chakri, the ruling house of Thailand founded by King Buddha Yodfa Chulaloke (or Rama I) in 1782. The monarchy and the royal family continues to command huge respect in Thailand, with its influence peaking especially during the Bhumibol era. The previous monarch wielded a great deal of popular respect and moral authority, which was used at times to resolve political crises. The monarch's official home is the Grand Palace, however the present king lives primarily in the Chitralada Palace in Bangkok or the Klai Kangwon Villa, in Hua Hin. The monarch's household is managed by the Bureau of the Royal Household and his finances by the Crown Property Bureau.
The heir presumptive to the throne is Prince Dipangkorn Rasmijoti, although it is up to the king's discretion whether Prince Dipangkorn will be named Crown Prince in the future. Succession to the throne is governed by the 1924 Palace Law of Succession, promulgated by King Vajiravudh. Palace law follows the male agnatic primogeniture, where males only are allowed to succeed and inheritance is passed only from father to son and through the male line only.
Since 1932 the head of government of Thailand has been the Prime Minister of Thailand, usually the leader of the largest party or the largest coalition party in the lower house of parliament. The prime minister is, in accordance with the constitution, selected, first by an election in the lower house, then officially appointed by the King.
The prime minister, as head of the executive branch, is also the leader of the Cabinet of Thailand. The prime minister therefore retains the prerogative to appoint or remove any minister he or she so chooses. As the most visible member of the government the prime minister represents the country abroad and is the main spokesperson for the government at home. The prime minister's official residence is Baan Phitsanulok, a mansion in the Dusit district of Bangkok.
The most recent prime minister was Yingluck Shinawatra of the Pheu Thai Party, the first female prime minister of Thailand. She was removed from office by the Constitutional Court of Thailand on 7 May 2014, on charges of abuse of power. She was replaced briefly by an interim prime minister, Niwatthamrong Boonsongpaisan, and then succeeded by General Prayut Chan-o-cha, leader of the military coup of 22 May 2014.
The Cabinet of Thailand or the Council of Ministers of Thailand is a council composed of 35 ministers of state and deputy ministers, who run the cabinet ministries of the kingdom. There are currently 20 cabinet ministries, accounting for the main portion of state employees. The cabinet is responsible for the formulation and execution of policies of the government. Members of the cabinet do not necessarily need to be members of the lower house as in other countries, but most often are. The Office of the Prime Minister and the cabinet offices are in a building complex called the Government House of Thailand.
The legislative branch (also called the Parliament of Thailand) of the Thai government was first established in the "temporary" constitution of 1932. The assembly first met on 28 June 1932 in the Ananda Samakhom Throne Hall. The National Assembly of Thailand is a bicameral legislature and is composed of two houses: the Senate and the House of Representatives. The legislative branch took its current form in 2007. The national assembly has 630 members. Both houses of the national assembly meet at the Parliament House of Thailand.
The upper house of the legislative branch was first established in 1946. However, for most of its history the Senate has been the stronghold of the military and the elite. The current Senate has 150 members. Seventy-six members are elected, one per province from the 75 provinces of Thailand (Bueng Kan does not have an elected senator yet) and one from the Bangkok Metropolitan Area. The other 74 are selected by the Senate Selection Commission, made up of both elected and appointed officials.
The chamber is strictly a non-partisan, and members may not be a member of a partisan organisation, the House of Representatives, the judiciary, or the cabinet for five years. The Senate has little legislative power, but retains considerable powers of scrutiny and appointment as the Senate is vested with the power to advise on the appointment of members of the judiciary and independent government agencies. The Senate sits for a set six year non-renewable term. The Senate cannot be dissolved. The Senate is presided over by a president of the Senate, who is also the Vice-President of the National Assembly. He is assisted by two vice-presidents of the Senate. The last election to the Senate was in 2008.
The Senate and the House of Representatives were abolished after 22 May 2014 coup by the "National Council for Peace and Order" (NCPO). Currently, according to the interim Constitution of Thailand imposed by NCPO, there is no Senate.
The House of Representatives
The lower house of the legislative branch has been in existence in some form since 1932. The House of Representatives is the primary legislative house of the government of Thailand. The House includes 500 members. Three hundred seventy-five of the MPs are elected directly from single-seat constituencies around the country. The other 125 members are selected using "proportional representation" through party-lists. There are eight electoral areas from which the proportionally representative votes are taken and 375 constituencies. This system is called the "mixed member majoritarian" in which a voter has two votes, one for the constituency MP, and the other for a party in the voter's electoral area.
The house is a partisan chamber with seven political parties. The house is the primary legislative chamber and the more powerful of the two houses. The house has the power to remove both the prime minister and cabinet ministers through a vote of no confidence. The house sits for a term of four years, however a dissolution of the house can happen anytime before the expiration of the term. The house is led by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, who is also the President of the National Assembly. He is assisted by two deputy speakers.
The leader of the largest party or largest coalition party will most likely become prime minister, while the leader of the largest party with no members holding any ministerial positions will become the leader of the opposition. The leader of the opposition is a powerful position with considerable influence. The leader is assisted by a shadow cabinet. The last general election for the house was in 2007.
After the 2007 election the People's Power party (PPP) won the most seats with the Democrats and Chart Thai party trailing behind. However, after the 2008 political crisis and the ruling of the constitutional court on 2 December 2008, in which the PPP plus the Chart Thai and Neutral Democratic Parties (coalition partners), the prime minister and several party executives were banned from politics for five years, the composition of the house changed. The successor of the PPP still retained most seats, however the remainder of the coalition partners defected and joined a Democrat-led government which was inaugurated on 17 December 2008, leaving the For Thais Party (successor of the PPP) and the Pracharaj Party in opposition.
The House of Representatives and the Senate were abolished after 22 May 2014 coup by the NCPO. Currently, according to the interim Constitution of Thailand imposed by NCPO, there is no House of Representatives. Legislative power is vested in the National Legislative Council, appointed by the NCPO.
|Parties||Leader||Previous seats||Changes||Current seats|
|Pheu Thai Party‡||Yingluck Shinawatra||189||(+76)||265|
|Democrat Party||Abhisit Vejjajiva||172||(-13)||159|
|Bhumjaithai Party||Chaovarat Chanweerakul||32||(+2)||34|
|Chartthaipattana Party‡||Chumpol Silpa-archa||25||(-6)||19|
|Chart Pattana Puea Pandin Party‡||Dr. Wannarat Channukul||9||(-2)||7|
|Phalang Chon Party‡||Chao Maneewong||-||(+7)||7|
|Rak Thailand Party||Chuwit Kamolvisit||-||(+4)||4|
|Matubhum Party||Sonthi Boonyaratglin||3||(-1)||2|
|Mahachon Party‡||Apirat Sirinawin||-||(+1)||1|
|Rak Santi Party||Thawil Surachejpong||-||(+1)||1|
|New Democracy Party||Wimon Saramano||-||(+1)||1|
|Source: The Nation.com|
‡ Coalition partners
The judiciary of Thailand is composed of four distinct systems: the Military Court (which has expanded its power since 22 May 2014), the Court of Justice system, the Administrative Court system and the Constitutional Court.
Courts of Justice
The Courts of Justice of Thailand is the largest of the court system and makes up the majority of courts in the kingdom. The courts as mandated in the constitution are composed of three tiers: the Court of First Instance, the Court of Appeals, and the Supreme Court of Justice of Thailand.
There are no verbatim transcripts kept by the trial court. The court record is composed of the courts decision.
Research judges assist the sitting judges. Judges must take an examination and two different examinations are given: one exam is for judges trained in Thailand and a different examination is given for judges who graduate from foreign law schools. All judges are formally appointed by the king.
The Asian Human Rights Commission called the Thai legal system a "mess" and called for a drastic overhaul of Thailand's criminal procedures. It cited the rampant use of forced confessions, and the fact that even a senior justice ministry official admitted that 30% of cases went to court with no evidence. It also criticised the judiciary for failing to ensure that trials are conducted speedily, citing the case of four Thai men accused of plotting to kill Supreme Court President Praman Chansue (Thai: ประมาณ ชันซื่อ). The accused were present in court 461 times before 91 different judges since proceedings began in 1993 and ended in 2008. While these proceedings continued, Mr Praman died in 2007.
The administrative court system is made up of two tiers: The Administrative Courts of First Instance and the Supreme Administrative Court. The court system was first created in 1997. The court's main jurisdiction is to settle litigation between the state or an organ of state (government ministries, departments and independent agencies) and private citizens.
First set up in 1997, the Constitutional Court of Thailand was created solely as a high court to settle matters pertaining to the constitution. The court has since accumulated huge amounts of power and influence, generating many controversies on the way. This became especially clear during the 2006 and 2008 political crises, settling political deadlocks and social unrest.
Thailand's legal system blends principles of traditional Thai and Western laws. The Western-sourced laws are often misused and corrupted. The traditional "Thai" laws are the product of Hindu-Brahmin laws used by the Khmer Empire. There is no discovery in the Thai legal system. Slander and libel are not civil torts in Thailand but criminal offences.
Thailand's legal system has been often criticised by other countries for having penalties of life in prison or even death for crimes such as drug possession or smuggling, while having lenient penalties for crimes such as terrorism and marital abuse resulting in spousal death.
The criminally accused are entitled to have a court-appointed certified translator present in court if they cannot afford one. Appeals must be filed with the trial court within thirty (30) days of the judge reading, signing, and issuing the verdict. There are no juries in trials. Only Thai citizens can be admitted to the Bar and can practice before the courts. Attorneys must carry their current, yellow, bar card when in court and may be required to produce it on challenge.
In Thailand's southern border provinces, where Muslims constitute the majority of the population, provincial Islamic committees have limited jurisdiction over probate, family, marriage, and divorce cases.
Under Section 44 Thailand's Interim Constitution of 2014, the Prime Minister and NCPO leader has complete authority to perform any administrative, legislative, and judicial action as necessary, which then is deemed legal and constitutional.
Thailand is divided into 76 provinces (changwat, singular and plural). The Ministry of the Interior appoints governors for all provinces. The metropolis of greater Bangkok is a special administrative area at the same level as a province, but the governor is popularly elected.
In November 2015 the government launched a "one-stop" website with information on all government services. The website, referred to as "GovChannel", is at GovChannel. It is operated by the Information and Communication Technology Ministry (MICT) and its subsidiary agency, the Electronic Government Agency (EGA). GovChannel links information from four other government websites.
- "Human rights group slams Thailand's judicial system". M&C. 26 March 2007. Archived from the original on 14 July 2007.
- Audjarint, Wasamon (2015-11-30). "One-stop website launched with data on all Thai govt services". The Nation. Retrieved 30 November 2015.
- Damrong Rajanubhab. (1927). Thai Government in Ancient Times.. (in Thai). Bangkok: Fine Arts Department.
- Kittisak Prokati (2006). Thai Legal Reform under European Influence (pdf) (in Thai). Bangkok: Winyuchon. ISBN 9789742884727.
- Manit Jumpa (2007). A Comment on Reform of Thai Constitution in 2007 (pdf) (in Thai). Bangkok: Chulalongkorn University Press. ISBN 9789740319078.
- Noranit Setabutr (2007). Constitutions and Thai Politics (pdf) (in Thai). Bangkok: Thammasat University Press. ISBN 9789745719996.
- Noranit Setabutr (2000). The 'Royal Tutors' Group in Thai Politics (pdf) (in Thai) (2nd ed.). Bangkok: Thammasat University Press. ISBN 9745717266.
- René Guyon (2007). The Work of Codification in Siam (pdf) (in Thai). Bangkok: Winyuchon. ISBN 9789742885403.
- Sirindhorn (2006). Thai Government during Ayutthaya Period and Early Rattanakosin Period (pdf) (in Thai). Bangkok: Chulalongkorn University. ISBN 9749940083.
- Tej Bunnag (2005). Intendancy System of Government in Siam: 1892–1915 (pdf) (in Thai) (2nd ed.). Bangkok: Thammasat University Press. ISBN 9745719374.
- Yut Saeng-uthai (2008). A Legal Treatise on the Provisions of the Constitution governing the King (pdf) (in Thai). Bangkok: Winyuchon. ISBN 9789742886332.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Government of Thailand.|
- Royal Thai Government homepage
- (English) Royal Thai Government homepage
- Gov Channel (18,806 handbooks on how to apply for state services and links to all government agencies)