Thailand flag Thailand: Economic and Political Overview

The political framework of Thailand

Political Outline

Current Political Leaders
King: Maha Vajiralongkorn, Rama X (since 13 December 2016) – hereditary
Prime Minister: Prayut Chan-o-cha (since 25 August 2014, acting since 22 May 2014)
Next Election Dates
Senate: 2024
House of Representatives: 7 May, 2023
Current Political Context
On March 2019 a general election was held in Thailand for first time since the 2014 coup d’état, under a complex new system that empowered small parties and the military. In July 2019 the junta chief Prayuth Chan-o-choa ordered an end to the military rule but kept the power as Prime Minister. The new civil government focused on addressing the slow economic growth and an ageing workforce. The new government enjoys the support of the royalist-military alliance. A series of protests began in 2020 in response to the Constitutional Court's decision to dissolve the New Future Party which had 81 seats in the lower house. This decision enabled the government to strengthen its majority in this chamber (270 of the 500 seats). In 2021, the demonstrators mainly demanded the reform of the monarchy, in particular of the statute of the sovereign, as well as the rewriting of the constitution of 2017, which gives broad power to the 250 senators, chosen by the army. They are still calling for the dissolution of parliament and the resignation of the prime minister. The authorities refuse to make concessions.
While Thailand has been successful in stemming the tide of COVID-19 infections, the economic impact has been severe since 2020 and has led to widespread job losses.

The general election scheduled to be held by May 2023 will see a dilution in power of the current pro-establishment ruling bloc, with opposition parties expected to perform strongly. However, the new prime minister will still need to be endorsed by the royal-military alliance, which will remain a powerful force under the current constitution. The political outlook in advance of the elections suggests that the political stability needed to undergird any effort at structural economic reform will remain elusive.

Nevertheless, Thailand’s long-serving leader Prayut Chan-o-cha, who has been in power since leading a coup in 2014, officially broke with the country’s military-backed ruling party in January 2023 and joined the newly formed United Thai Nation Party (UTNP), expressing his willingness to remain prime minister after this year’s election.

Main Political Parties
Thailand maintains a multi-party system, but traditional political parties have seen their role reduced in the parliament since the military-led coup in 2014. Currently, the parliament is dominated by the military. The main political parties are:

Pheu Thai Party (PTP); centre-right
Palang Pracharath Party: right-wing, conservatist
Future Forward Party: centre-left
Democrat Party: centre-right
Bhumjaithai Party: centre, populist
Thai Liberal Party: centre-left
Chartthaipattana Part: right-wing, conservatist

Executive Power
Thailand is governed by a constitutional monarchy. The King is the Chief of State and the Monarchy is hereditary. Traditionally, he has little direct power, but benefits from enormous popular respect and moral authority, which has been used on occasion to resolve political crisis and ensure national stability. Official power rests with the government. The Prime Minister is the Head of Government and holds all the executive powers including implementation of the law in the country and running the day-to-day affairs. Under the new Constitution approved in April 2017, individuals outside of parliament can serve as Prime Minister. The cabinet is appointed by the King on recommendation of the Prime Minister.
Thailand’s 77 provinces each administered by an appointed Governor are divided into districts, sub-districts (tambons) and villages.
Legislative Power
The legislature in Thailand is bicameral. The parliament of the country is the National Assembly. Its consists of the Senate (the upper house) with 250 seats, all its members appointed by the Royal Thai Military, under the new Constitution adopted in April 2017, to serve five-year terms; and the House of Representatives (the lower house) with 500 seats, its members elected by popular vote to serve four-year terms (375 directly elected through single constituency elections and 125 elected through party-list proportional representation). The executive branch of government is directly or indirectly dependent on the support of the parliament, often expressed through a vote of confidence. The Government cannot veto the acts passed by the parliament.

Indicator of Freedom of the Press


The world rankings, published annually, measures violations of press freedom worldwide. It reflects the degree of freedom enjoyed by journalists, the media and digital citizens of each country and the means used by states to respect and uphold this freedom. Finally, a note and a position are assigned to each country. To compile this index, Reporters Without Borders (RWB) prepared a questionnaire incorporating the main criteria (44 in total) to assess the situation of press freedom in a given country. This questionnaire was sent to partner organisations,150 RWB correspondents, journalists, researchers, jurists and human rights activists. It includes every kind of direct attacks against journalists and digital citizens (murders, imprisonment, assault, threats, etc.) or against the media (censorship, confiscation, searches and harassment etc.).

World Rank:

Source: World Press Freedom Index, Reporters Without Borders


Indicator of Political Freedom


The Indicator of Political Freedom provides an annual evaluation of the state of freedom in a country as experienced by individuals. The survey measures freedom according to two broad categories: political rights and civil liberties. The ratings process is based on a checklist of 10 political rights questions (on Electoral Process, Political Pluralism and Participation, Functioning of Government) and 15 civil liberties questions (on Freedom of Expression, Belief, Associational and Organizational Rights, Rule of Law, Personal Autonomy and Individual Rights). Scores are awarded to each of these questions on a scale of 0 to 4, where a score of 0 represents the smallest degree and 4 the greatest degree of rights or liberties present. The total score awarded to the political rights and civil liberties checklist determines the political rights and civil liberties rating. Each rating of 1 through 7, with 1 representing the highest and 7 the lowest level of freedom, corresponds to a range of total scores.

Not Free
Political Freedom:

Political freedom in the world (interactive map)
Source: Freedom in the World Report, Freedom House


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Latest Update: November 2023