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Thailand classified as a “not free” country in Freedom House report

Caitlin Ashworth

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October protest at the Asok-Sukhumvit intersection in Bangkok / Photo by Caitlin Ashworth

On a scale of 0 to 100, with 100 being absolute freedom, Thailand scores at 30, a “not free” country, according to the nonprofit Freedom House. Each year, the organisation reviews the political rights and civil liberties of countries around the world. According to their recent assessment, Thailand has declined in terms of rights and liberties, dropping on the scale from “partly free” to “not free.”

The main reason for the drop on the freedom scale, the organisation says, is “due to the dissolution of a popular opposition party that performed well in the 2019 elections, and the military-dominated government’s crackdown on youth-led protests calling for democratic reforms.”

The Future Forward Party was dissolved in February 2020 after the court found that the founder, Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, had made a large donation to the party that exceeded the legal limit. The party’s leaders were then banned from politics for the next decade.

Youth-led protests started in February, but the demonstrations were put on pause due to Covid-19 restrictions banning large public gatherings. Protesters gathered in July as restrictions lifted, but some leaders then faced charges for holding a public gathering, which was still banned under emergency orders.

In October, the prime minister imposed what Freedom House calls a “severe” State of Emergency order in Bangkok that banned gatherings of more than 5 people. Some protesters were arrested for violating the order nearly immediately after it was imposed.

With activists pushing for monarchy reform and an end to the military’s involvement in government, raising subjects considered taboo and unprecedented in Thai society, the Thai government has increased its use of the draconian lèse majesté law. Since November, dozens of activists have faced charges for insulting or defaming the Thai Monarchy.

Freedom House scores countries on topics like the electoral process, questioning if politicians and leaders were elected in free and fair elections, as well as freedom of expression and individual rights.

Thailand’s military seized power in 2014 in a bloodless coup. The 2017 constitution was drafted by a committee appointed by the military’s National Council for Peace and Order. In 2019, the country transitioned to what Freedom House calls a “military-dominated, semi-elected” government.

The 2019 elections were overseen by the Election Commission of Thailand, whose members were appointed by the military. All 250 senators were appointed by the military in 2019 to serve 5 year terms.

In 2020, the combination of democratic deterioration and frustrations over the role of the monarchy provoked the country’s largest anti-government demonstrations in a decade. In response to these youth-led protests, the regime resorted to familiar authoritarian tactics, including arbitrary arrests, intimidation, lèse majesté charges, and harassment of activists. Freedom of the press is constrained, due process is not guaranteed, and there is impunity for crimes committed against activists.

SOURCE: Freedom House

 

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40 Comments

40 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Slugger

    Thursday, March 4, 2021 at 5:58 pm

    Let me guess, Freedom House is American, right? Funded by the CIA?

  2. Avatar

    Frank

    Thursday, March 4, 2021 at 6:12 pm

    I do understand but I do think thailand is a very free country in many other things.. is europe country free then? They manipulated with nonsense every day… example can you make a fire in your garden or on the street? Small things like that you can do in Thailand I think Thailand very free but main problems is the IQ of many and that includes the government

  3. Avatar

    Robert Bunker

    Thursday, March 4, 2021 at 6:39 pm

    Quelle surprise!

  4. Avatar

    luca

    Thursday, March 4, 2021 at 7:15 pm

    Of course, all neighboring countries are dictatorships, and soon they will all be under a single dictatorship of China that will conquer them first economically and then militarily.

  5. Avatar

    Ian

    Thursday, March 4, 2021 at 7:39 pm

    Well knock me over with a feather I’m so shocked Thailand not free never 555
    Well let’s all do something about it as Mel Gibson’s last words in braveheart
    FREEDOM

  6. Avatar

    Alavan

    Thursday, March 4, 2021 at 10:41 pm

    Frank, I guess you don’t understand the meaning of freedom. Yes you are free, but your freedom is limited at the point that it interferes with somebody else ‘s freedom. Your freedom can not block another one ‘s freedom, and vice versa.

  7. Avatar

    Issan John

    Thursday, March 4, 2021 at 11:00 pm

    I don’t disagree with many of their assessments, but since

    “Freedom House advocates for U.S. leadership and collaboration with like-minded governments to vigorously oppose dictators and oppression, and strengthen democracy around the world”

    … but over the last seventy years or so the “US leadership” has probably done more to actively support dictators and weaken democracy around the world than the rest of the world put together, I don’t really think they deserve to be given too much respect.

  8. Avatar

    Michael Cooksey

    Thursday, March 4, 2021 at 11:46 pm

    Sigh……

  9. Avatar

    michael cooksey

    Thursday, March 4, 2021 at 11:55 pm

    Europe, in the traditional sense, is free. No equivocation at all. A few eastern counties are becoming less so. If you look at the EU, not Schengen Area; Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Republic of Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden. One member country is backsliding on personal and political freedom. Unclear if they’ll remain EU members.

  10. Avatar

    Political Observer

    Friday, March 5, 2021 at 12:42 am

    The purpose of the military in any country is to protect that country from external enemies, form other countries. The purpose of the military is not to govern. When the military becomes the government they become mafia. Gangsters.

  11. Avatar

    Blues

    Friday, March 5, 2021 at 1:42 am

    Unfortunately neither is the USA anymore.

  12. Avatar

    peter pope

    Friday, March 5, 2021 at 2:23 am

    I think the commentators here got it pretty much right. The initiator of the anti royalist hype was a student studying in the US and started the rise against the Thai Monarchy when she returned. There are definetly some “foreign interests” involved as they are in many other countries like Cambodia aswell. In Cambodia the bad boogie man is labelled as the Tyrant and Dictator, mostly by US sources. Since the stick and carrot policy of US Aid did not work the new Master Provider of foreign aid is China which again is labeled as the new boogie man. Meanwhile Peoples life’s and wealth has steadily improved over the past decades which some people tend to forget. It’s fashionable to be against the Government. Be it in Thailand, ASEAN Countries, Europe, Australia or the US. Which reminds me to JFK’s comment: Don’t ask what your Country can do for you, Ask what you can do for your Country !

  13. Avatar

    albert zweistein

    Friday, March 5, 2021 at 3:19 am

    No it’s Russian and funded by the KGB.

  14. Avatar

    Ray

    Friday, March 5, 2021 at 3:39 am

    I am all for freedom of speech but….. with all the conspiracy theories floating around and people acting on it, I am not so sure any more. There are too many looneys around in the free west and when they become the majority, it is getting dangerous. I am inclined to believe that democracy has had it’s longest time. Just don’t ask me what is a good alternative.

  15. Avatar

    Robert Elliot

    Friday, March 5, 2021 at 4:25 am

    Just looking at other countries on the list Thailand is not in good company.

  16. Avatar

    TC

    Friday, March 5, 2021 at 5:50 am

    5555.
    Conspiracy theory number 100.
    Forgetting your “theory” no matter who was assessing Thailand you would have the actually be free to be assessed as free. Is Thailand a Democracy? No – run by the army. Is there freedom of speech in Thailand? No – try say something about the King they don’t like.
    Are you free to demonstrate in Thailand? No – just ask the current jailed demonstrators.
    Freedom is often taken for granted. Ask the people in Myanmar right?

  17. Avatar

    funny coz its true

    Friday, March 5, 2021 at 7:06 am

    555 free, they are brainwashed from birth, schooling in Thailand is just about control and enough education to be able to work but not think.

  18. Avatar

    vic

    Friday, March 5, 2021 at 7:39 am

    They ask for freedom and they wear a muzzle?

  19. Avatar

    dee lee

    Friday, March 5, 2021 at 7:53 am

    Having lived and worked for long periods of time in N America , Europe and now Asia I can say that Only truly free major country by far is the USA ; Rights are vigorously protected and enforced by
    the judiciary ; violations are scrupulously exposed by the newspapers ;Wrongs are redressed violators punished victims made whole Things just work ! Now , Europe has the veneer of freedom but underneath plenty of restrictions and difficulties S E Asia is troubled and IMO sliding ( perfect assessment by Mr Luca above at 7:15 ) Also reread comment at 12:42 above . And always remember the motto of the great State of New Hampshire

  20. Avatar

    Dreqo

    Friday, March 5, 2021 at 8:50 am

    So that would put China around a 1.5?

  21. Avatar

    Craig

    Friday, March 5, 2021 at 8:55 am

    It’s more of a structured environment here. From grade school on, there is a specific way to act in this society. It’s a different culture and many farang I’ve met from the west, come here for the “freedom” they didn’t have where they came from. But freedom comes with responsibility and it’s unfortunate many farang here want freedom but not any responsibility. I think they get their “freedom” here and don’t think much of these stats as stated in the article.

  22. Avatar

    We're all someone's useful idiots...

    Friday, March 5, 2021 at 10:19 am

    Love the comments attacking this report and it’s conclusion because of presupposed US / foreign interventionism…

    “I don’t really think they deserve to be given too much respect.”
    To which one has to ask – do you really think your own biased daily output in the Thaiger comment section somehow entitles you to more respect than this US think tank, “buddy”?

    Laughable (at best)…

  23. Avatar

    Issan John

    Friday, March 5, 2021 at 10:33 am

    “One member country is backsliding on personal and political freedom. Unclear if they’ll remain EU members.”

    Only “one”? Far from it, michael c, there are numerous offenders. One of the worst, ironically, is the very one that boasts the loudest of “freedom” but only allows the “freedoms” it prefers which are increasingly absurd, by any measure – and there’s no sign at all of it leaving the EU, which would collapse if it did.

  24. Avatar

    David

    Friday, March 5, 2021 at 10:58 am

    I just want a beer at 2.30pm please.

  25. Avatar

    Adrian

    Friday, March 5, 2021 at 11:16 am

    I have been here 15 years and can say without any problems that this is not a free country and the leadership is military. What happens in Miramar will also happen here some day!

  26. Avatar

    Comicus

    Friday, March 5, 2021 at 11:27 am

    Of course, not only THL is not free, it is very expensive, actually. It definitely cannot be bought by a non-English speaking like USA which have not been able to speak proper English for decades. American should focus with their own intelligent development before continuing to spread their ignorance around the world.

    They can start with something that is easy such as learning how to count ‘billon’ correctly or learn what cheese really is or study a few more simple French words e.g. ‘Entrée’ so they can order their meal in a better fashion.

  27. Avatar

    Issan John

    Friday, March 5, 2021 at 2:38 pm

    “So that would put China around a 1.5?”

    Actually China’s a “9”, Dreqo.

    IIRC the lowest was Syria with a “1” and N Korea and a few others on 2 or 3.

    … all these things are comparative ?

  28. Avatar

    Issan John

    Friday, March 5, 2021 at 2:48 pm

    “Only truly free major country by far is the USA”

    Oh purleeze, dee lee! ?

    Even Freedom House had the USA in 61st place, behind nearly all European countries, East and West, and a number of Asian and South American countries! ? ? ?

  29. Avatar

    vic

    Friday, March 5, 2021 at 3:42 pm

    They demand freedom wearing a muzzle?

  30. Avatar

    Keet Korin

    Friday, March 5, 2021 at 4:02 pm

    I live in Thailand and do pretty much what I want… whats the problem?

  31. Avatar

    David Mann

    Friday, March 5, 2021 at 4:38 pm

    I agree with many comments here except the silly one suggesting only the U.S is free. Having lived in a number of countries and a U.S citizen, I can tell you it’s not as free as countries like the U.K. Norway or Denmark. Many Western countries are in the process, and have been for the past 20 years of strangling their own freedoms. The freedom to even speak or make a joke is becoming harder. I have noted more and more people holding back and basically learning to say nothing than be in fear of the racist, homophobic, or sexist label being hung on them. Even terms such as Mr, Miss and Mrs are increasingly dangerous territory! There’s the old saying of meeting a person who you weren’t sure if they were male or female and not knowing to Fu*k them or fight them. It now seems it can also depend on what day you meet them if they have a fluid gender identity. We don’t need the Chinese to control the western nations, we are doing a great job of it ourselves.

    On the topic of China and the way they influence countries, the West needs to rethink its views. The Chinese will control and invade financially and politically, but I don’t think they will ever invade militarily (apart from Taiwan maybe?). They just don’t work that way and previous Chinese empires have generally demonstrated that. As long as they have financial and political control and are left alone to grow their span of influence you can keep your country and your religion. We are totally wrong to sit back and do nothing about China simply because they haven’t rolled tanks in to Laos or Korea. Actually, the time to stop the spread of Chinese influence and control is long passed (1985). It’s just a matter of time before they replace the U.S as the worlds de facto superpower.

  32. Avatar

    Toby Andrews

    Friday, March 5, 2021 at 5:42 pm

    Thailand is only 2 points more free than Zimbabwe!
    Uganda is more free than Thailand.
    Nothing to be proud of.
    I do not know why they stand up for the national anthem. Most of it is a joke and not relevant to Thailand.
    Hypocrisy and nonsense.

  33. Avatar

    Roger C

    Friday, March 5, 2021 at 8:33 pm

    Seems many here are confusing social freedom vs. legal freedom.

  34. Avatar

    James R

    Friday, March 5, 2021 at 11:15 pm

    Michael

    No one is free in the EU, you have your own governments but the real power is with the unelected Eurocrats in the EU.

    If you want to be free, do what we did in the UK, leave if you are brave enough.

    See what has happened recently, we have inoculated 20 million people so far as we are not held up by the EU squabblers, the EU has achieved just a few percent even though you have the drugs, they are not being given out.

  35. Avatar

    Ian

    Saturday, March 6, 2021 at 2:06 am

    David ij will never big UK up as he downs it on a daily basis but that’s cool with me because I live in a land of freedom and free speech he hides in his mud hut and praises Thailand’s dictators daily because he’s in fear of his 1yr holiday becoming just that andcthats allbtbe farangs have 1yr at a time so so sad but its thier choice not mine

  36. Avatar

    Ian

    Saturday, March 6, 2021 at 2:27 am

    And just for you ij I said machine gun for many people who on here are not familiar with guns and rifles so yes if you want the correct term it’s a SA80 semi automatic rifle firing twenty rounds at a time it can be put on rapid fire of which you can clear the cartridge in 3 seconds or single shot I took this weapon apart and put it back together in 3 minutes down to springs ECT in case you got a blockage of which was a regular fault on this rifle but now I have explained I’m sure you will find fault but any ex soldiers out thier UK please shut this fuckin low life up for good before I do 16 day quarantine and go find him in issan

  37. Avatar

    Frank

    Saturday, March 6, 2021 at 10:27 am

    Thank you Alavan

  38. Avatar

    Toby Andrews

    Saturday, March 6, 2021 at 11:04 am

    He might be hard to find. It seems he has gone native and might be wearing a straw hat and a skirt.
    He will look like a Thai
    However, he will probably be carrying a big bottle of Chang.
    .
    lol

  39. Avatar

    Stardust

    Saturday, March 6, 2021 at 12:32 pm

    And as we can see like Twitter/facebook etc already anounced, the sponsored fake news spreading and pro dictators accounts are active here and on Bangkok post comments sections.

  40. Avatar

    AC

    Monday, March 8, 2021 at 7:24 pm

    What about Wesley Barnes who was arrested and jailed two nights with criminal defamation charges for posting on Trip Advisor critical rewieus of a hotel in Thailand. He had to present his public apologies to the resort to leave the prison, is Thailand e free country ?

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Caitlin Ashworth is a writer from the United States who has lived in Thailand since 2018. She graduated from the University of South Florida St. Petersburg with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and media studies in 2016. She was a reporter for the Daily Hampshire Gazette In Massachusetts. She also interned at the Richmond Times-Dispatch in Virginia and Sarasota Herald-Tribune in Florida.

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