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Thailand - Politics 1992-2000

In March 1992, with a new constitution in force and new elections held, General Suchinda Kraprayoon, one of the February 1991 coup leaders, became prime minister and leader of a five-party coalition. Then the non-elected primer General Suchinda Kraprayoon appointed himself to hold the position on May 18, 1992. In one intervening incident, hundreds of pro-democracy protestors and many Thai people were killed and wounded in the violence. King Bhumipol (Rama IX) had to lend a hand to stop the bloodshed confrontation. Afterwards, Suchinda was forced to resign and Anan Panyarchun was appointed to the temporary primer at that time. On 24 May 1992, Suchinda resigned as Prime Minister of Thailand, leading to new elections in September 1992. Over the next five years, Thailand had four elections and a variety of coalition governments.

Anand Panyarachun, a civilian who had served as acting prime minister between March 1991 and March 1992, was named prime minister. Anand embarked on new reform measures, but he was replaced after the September 1992 elections by Democratic Party (Phak Prachatipat) leader Chuan Leekpai, the head of a four-party coalition. Political parties that had opposed the military in May 1992 won by a narrow majority, and Democrat Party leader Chuan Leekpai served as Prime Minister until May 1995.

Chuans government pushed through constitutional amendments that provided for more wideranging democratic practices, enlarged the House of Representatives, reduced the size of the appointed Senate, lowered the voting age from 20 to 18 years of age, guaranteed equality for women, and established an administrative court. In January 1985, the Thai Nation Party (Phak Chat Thai) won the largest number of House seats, and its leader, Banharn Silapa-Archa, headed the new coalition government for little more than a year. In March 1996, Banharn appointed the members of the new Senate; unlike earlier Senates, most members were civilians instead of military officers. The failure of his coalition, however, led to new elections and a new six-party coalition government in November 1996 led by General Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, head of the Phak Khwam Wang Mai (New Aspiration Party).

Chavalit made key economic portfolio appointments to his cabinet, but he failed to implement the austere fiscal policies needed to revive a weak economy. In mid-1997 a major financial crisis ensued, the bahtThailands currencywas devalued, the Central Bank governor resigned, and widespread protests took place. The government announced austerity measures, and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) intervened, but the economy continued to deteriorate. Despite a new constitution promulgated in October 1997, confidence in Chavalit continued to slide, and elections in November returned Chuan Leekpai to the prime ministership as head of a seven-party coalition. This transfer of power without military intervention, from one elected leader to another, represented a major breakthrough in the development of democratic processes in Thailand. The baht continued to devalue, however, and social unrest recurred. By the summer of 1998, the economy had become more stable, although investigations into banking practices continued to uncover mismanagement and irregularities. With assistance from the IMF, Thailand gradually regained macroeconomic stability.

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