Thailand downgraded to 'not free' in global survey

Thailand downgraded to 'not free' in global survey

Freedom House points to FFP dissolution and suppression of protests as factors

Thailand has been downgraded again to “not free” from “partly free” in the latest global rankings by Freedom House, a US-based democracy advocacy group.

The court-ordered dissolution of the opposition Future Forward Party in 2020 and the continuing crackdown on pro-democracy groups were among the factors contributing to the change in the country’s status, according to the Freedom in the World 2021 report released this week.

The report assigned Thailand a total score of 30 out of 100, down from 32 out of 100 in the previous survey covering 2019. In 2018 and 2017, the country was deemed “not free”. The slight improvement in 2019 partly reflected the fact that elections were finally held after five years of military rule, but Freedom House observed that the process was flawed.

“The results, announced six weeks after the polls, were tainted by irregularities, with ballots ‘lost’, and initial vote tallies changed. Additionally, the formula for distributing party seats was altered after the election in order to reduce seats won by opposition parties and redistribute them to military-aligned parties,” it noted.

The report said that “a combination of democratic deterioration and frustrations over the role of the monarchy” had 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,” it said. “Freedom of the press is constrained, due process is not guaranteed, and there is impunity for crimes committed against activists.”

Freedom House evaluates countries based on 10 political rights indicators and 15 civil liberties indicators. Thailand scored 5 out of 40 for political rights and 25 out of 60 for civil liberties in 2020.

Worldwide, the report covering 210 countries and territories ranked 82 countries as free, 59 as partly free and 54 as not free in 2020. It noted there had been a steady erosion in freedoms since 2005, when it counted 89 countries as free, 58 as partly free and 45 as not free.

It said the impact of the long-term democratic decline “has become increasingly global in nature”, felt by people living in dictatorships as well as by citizens of established democracies.

“The ongoing decline has given rise to claims of democracy’s inherent inferiority. Proponents of this idea include official Chinese and Russian commentators seeking to strengthen their international influence while escaping accountability for abuses, as well as antidemocratic actors within democratic states who see an opportunity to consolidate power,” the authors wrote.

“They are both cheering the breakdown of democracy and exacerbating it, pitting themselves against the brave groups and individuals who have set out to reverse the damage.”

Founded in 1941, Freedom House is US government-funded non-profit non-governmental organisation that conducts research and advocacy on democracy, political freedom and human rights.

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