How can Thailand break the cycle of coups?

18 June 2014

Hopes for stable and democratic government in Thailand will remain dim until competing factions put aside differences and respect its constitution, a leading expert on Asian law will explain at the University of Sydney this evening.

"Ever since Thaksin Shinawatra's premiership, especially from 2005 until now, Thailand has been increasingly polarised between the red and yellow factions," said Professor Andrew Harding, of the National University of Singapore.

"Both of these movements are very complex in their make-up, but the rift represents amongst other things a divide between the largely rural farmer population north and east of Thailand, and the more middle-class population of central and southern Thailand," he said.

Anti-government protests in October 2013 led to the invalidation of February's general election result by the Constitutional Court, and last month, it dismissed Yingluck Shinawatra (Thaksin's sister) as Prime Minister. A military junta has since seized power, imposed curfews and silenced its critics, as Thailand fell victim to its twelfth coup since the absolute monarchy ended in 1932.

Professor Harding will explain Thailand's coup and constitutional crisis at a Distinguished Speakers lecture at the Sydney Law School tonight, Wednesday, June 18.

He said the country's current unrest will only abate when Thai citizens and intellectuals stand up for democratic principles, irrespective of factional interests.

"They need to reject rabble-rousing, corruption, illegal behaviour, and militarism; and insist on developing and supporting the institutions that have been created to ensure democracy and accountability. These in turn need to behave in a principled and politically neutral way and be seen to do so.

"Reconciliation will be a long job. It needs to start now. Military rule may well make things worse rather than better. I am worried what the red faction will do now they have been turned out of power five times in eight years. The constitutional system has broken down," he said.

Professor Andrew Harding is available for interview.

Event details:

What:Distinguished Speakers program: Constitutional reform in emerging countries
Where: Common Room, Level 4, Sydney Law School, the University of Sydney (Camperdown Campus)
When: Wednesday, June 18, 6-7pm
Cost: $15

Media enquiries: Luke O'Neill: (02) 9114 1961, 0481 012 600,