Thailand upgraded in global freedom survey

Thailand upgraded in global freedom survey

Country declared ‘partly free’ despite the fact that election winner was blocked from forming government

(Photo: Pattarapong Chatpattarasill)
(Photo: Pattarapong Chatpattarasill)

Thailand has been upgraded to “partly free” from “not free” in an annual survey by the US advocacy group Freedom House, despite its observation that the winner of the 2023 election was prevented from forming a government.

The manipulation of elections was one of the leading causes of the global decline in freedom in 2023, driving down the scores of 26 countries, according to the Freedom in the World 2024 report released on Thursday.

“Not only was electoral manipulation widespread, but it also took on a wide array of forms,” the report said. “Among the most shocking were efforts to overturn the outcome of an election after the fact. This happened in Guatemala, Thailand and Zimbabwe, where attempts were made to keep winning candidates and parties from assuming office.”

Freedom House, a non-profit organisation based in Washington DC, was founded in 1941 to advocate for democracy, political freedom and human rights. Most of its funding comes from the US State Department and other government grants.

Its latest report assessed 210 countries and territories, listing 84 as free, 59 as partly free and 67 as not free.

Each country and territory was assigned between 0 and 4 points each for 25 indicators, for an aggregate score of up to 100. The indicators were grouped into political rights (0–40) and civil liberties (0–60).

Thailand was assigned a total score of 36 out of 100 (12 for political rights and 24 for civil liberties).

The top five countries in the survey were Finland (100), Sweden, New Zealand, Norway and Ireland.

Overall, Freedom House said, political rights and civil liberties declined in 52 countries and only 21 countries saw improvements. It was the 18th straight year that global freedom has declined and the trend was more pronounced than it was the year before.

“Even if you look at it region by region, usually we are able to say that one is an outlier, but every single region registered a decline,” Yana Gorokhovskaia, a co-author of the report, told AFP. “The deterioration is pretty widespread.”

Ecuador was downgraded to “partly free” from “free” because of election disruption by violent criminal gangs, including the assassination of anti-corruption presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio.

Thailand was upgraded after holding competitive elections, even though establishment forces prevented the Move Forward Party from forming a government despite winning the most seats.

“The more competitive balloting, and the fact that the second-ranked opposition party (Pheu Thai) made it into government, led to score improvements that pushed the country across the threshold from Not Free to Partly Free status,” the report said.

“But Thailand’s democratic future remains in doubt, and its overall score, which dropped by 21 points after the 2014 coup, has yet to substantially recover.”

The Freedom House report comes just two weeks after the release of the annual Democracy Index compiled by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU). In that survey, Thailand fell 8 places to 63rd out of 167 countries and territories, in large part because the formation of the government last year was ultimately decided by unelected Senators rather than voters.

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