Thailand
Thailand in 21th century
Thailand
Civilian governments

Thailand entered a period of political crisis in early 2006. After the Thaksin family sold a 49.6 percent stake in the telecommunications firm that it controlled, opposition forces renewed charges that Thaksin had used his political position to bolster his fortune. In response to charges of corruption and abuse of power, Thaksin dissolved parliament and called for new elections to win a show of confidence. Three opposition parties boycotted the April election, which Thaksin’s Thai Rak Thai Party won with more than 50 percent of the vote. The large protest vote combined with the opposition boycott led Thaksin to announce his resignation the day after the election. He handed over power to a deputy prime minister, the April elections were annulled, and new elections were scheduled. Thaksin returned to work as caretaker prime minister in May.

In September, while Thaksin was out of the country attending a session of the UN General Assembly in New York City, a military coup was staged. A “Democratic Reform Council” was formed, headed by General Sonthi Boonyaratkalin, leader of the coup. The 1997 constitution was rescinded, and the council appointed retired army chief General Surayud Chulanont as interim prime minister until new elections could be held. In May 2007 the Constitutional Court ruled that Thai Rak Thai had violated electoral laws in the April 2006 election and ordered that the party be disbanded. Earlier the court had acquitted the Democrat Party, finding that it had not violated election laws.

In disbanding Thai Rak Thai, the court also ruled that more than 100 Thai Rak Thai officials, including Thaksin, could not participate in politics for five years. That would prevent them from running in elections that the military government promised to hold by the end of 2007.
The military leaders made the holding of elections contingent on the approval of a new constitution, which they claimed was needed to curb executive power. In August 2007 nearly 58 percent of voters approved a referendum on a new constitution drafted by a military-appointed panel. Among other changes from the 1997 constitution, the new charter imposed a two-term limit on future prime ministers and made it easier to impeach them. Encarta
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