Dinu Patriciu Eurasia Center Senior Fellow David A. Merkel writes for The Diplomat on the democratic regression in Thailand and its impact on the Obama administration’s Asia pivot:
Things are going in reverse in Thailand, one of the longest standing and most important U.S. allies in Asia. This nation of sixty-six million has been a major non-NATO ally since 1961. However, the military junta has now impeached a democratically elected prime minister, Yingluck Shinawatra, on corruption charges in an attempt to justify its power grab in the May 2014 coup, thus preventing this popular prime minister and sister of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, himself removed in a military coup while he was in the U.S. in 2006, from shaping the future of this vital Southeast Asian nation.
Under a state of emergency that is still in effect, the parliament, stacked by the military junta after the elected body was dissolved, has impeached the prime minister so as to criminalize what would be seen by most observers as a misguided populist policy. This is akin to impeaching a U.S. president over an ethanol subsidy, pork barrel spending, or a dairy program, all to justify the removal of a democratically elected government. The junta and it’s rubber stamp parliament also moved on Yingluck, the first female prime minister in Thailand’s history, to prevent her and the Phou Thai Party from engaging in domestic political life, as according to current Thai law, impeachment carries with it a ban from politics. But the junta is attempting to impeach the prime minister for a policy it continued once in power.