12 December 2018
It looks increasingly likely that the much anticipated and much delayed general election in Thailand will finally go ahead on 24 February, 2019*. In the world of Thai politics nothing is ever straight forward, but recent announcements lifting a ban on political gatherings and campaigning indicate the election should take place in February.
*Update: Election Date Confirmed for 24 March 2019
The date of the Thai general election has now been confirmed as 24 March, 2019.
Thailand is currently ruled by a military junta following a coup in May 2014. The military action followed a long period of political unrest that resulted in the man who led the coup, General Prayuth Chan-ocha, taking the role of prime minister. The junta said they would allow elections when the time was right, but have repeatedly pushed back the timeframe of their ‘roadmap to democracy’.
Supporters of the military government say the army have restored order to Thailand since 2014 and ended a period of political turmoil and violent street protests. Critics point to the failure of the democratic process and severe constraints on freedom of speech which has seen numerous people detained. Whatever happens in the election, the military look set to remain a powerful force in Thai politics. The new constitution and changes to the electoral system, introduced by the junta in 2017, enables the military to appoint the senate and therefore allows them to help decide on the next prime minister.
The military were in power when King Rama IX died and it had been thought that no election would take place until the formal coronation of the new king. No date has yet been announced for the coronation ceremony.*
*Update: 1 January 2019
The coronation ceremony of HM King Vajiralongkorn is set to take place from 4 May to 6 May.
If the election does indeed go ahead as scheduled, it should have little affect on tourists. The most significant impact on the average tourist will probably be the temporary ban on alcohol sales on the day of the election. However, Thai politics can be volatile at the best of times and visitors should be aware that the country remains deeply divided from a political perspective.
Update: Ban on alcohol sales for the Thai election
There will be an official nationwide ban on alcohol sales from 6pm on 23 March (Saturday) until 6pm on 24 March (Sunday). In addition, there will also be restriction in place the weekend before the election when pre-voting takes place. Alcohol sales will be banned for a 24-hour period from 6pm on 16 March (Saturday) until 6pm on 17 March (Sunday).