Focus on the Global South views the recent military takeover of government in Thailand as a most regrettable setback in the country’s democratization process.

The rationale for the takeover – that Thai society has become divided as never before in the nation’s history, and that the threats of violence require measures to maintain peace and security – may be an accurate reflection of the current political and social situation. Undoubtedly, corruption and arrogance on the part of the Thaksin Shinwatra government undermined democracy and the Constitution, and it led people to challenge the legitimacy of the regime. However, the usurpation of power and trampling of rights and liberties by a group of officers calling themselves the Democratic Reform Council is in no way justifiable.

Indeed, before the coup, there were already attempts to resolve the political crisis by democratic participation within the framework of the Constitution. These were forestalled by the military intervention.

As faithful advocates of participatory democracy, we demand respect for the 1997 constitution. This constitution was derived through the process of extensive consultation with all sectors of society, and is the only one that could be rightly called the people’s constitution. Thus, we join most of the Thai people in demanding the expeditious and complete return of democratic rights to the Thai people and an immediate restoration of the people’s basic rights to freedom of information, freedom of expression and freedom of association.