BANGKOK – From political protests and a military coup to surrogate baby scandals and a brutal island murder, 2014 is an eventful year for Thailand. It is the year of chaos and crisis with many incidents that brought international attention to the country. Here are five of the most significant news events in Thailand that made international headlines this year:
January 13: Thailand started off 2014 with a political protest against Yingluck Shinawatra, Thailand’s first female prime minister, then incumbent prime minister and sister of self-exiled ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra. The demonstration took place on major intersections and paralysed major streets in the business district, hence the name Bangkok Shutdown.
February 2: The general election was held despite the protest and threats to boycott the election. The protests spread throughout the country. Only about 48 percent of eligible voters turned up according to the Election Committee. About 26 percent of voters in Bangkok cast their votes, the majority of which voted “No’ or not voting for any parties. The election was later nullified.
April 5: The pro-government demonstrators took the streets to rally against the Bangkok Shutdown demonstrators. Both sides would not back down and had declared to fight against one another.
May 20: The military declared martial law nationwide to resolve the political tension that lasted more than six months. The army, however, denied that martial law was a move toward the coup.
May 22: After a negotiation between stakeholders failed, the army led by General Prayuth Chan-ocha seized control from the caretaker government and established a military junta as a government. This is Thailand’s 12th successful military coup.
August 24: General Prayuth, the leader of the junta, has been appointed the 29th prime minister of Thailand as many people have expected.
Fishing industry troubles
June 10: The Guardian, a British daily newspaper, published an article exposing slavery and human trafficking in the Thai fishing industry. Their focus is on businesses in the shrimp industry from boats catching small fishes to feed farmed shrimps to larger companies producing fishmeals. Thailand is the largest shrimp exporter in the world, with frozen products available in leading supermarkets worldwide.
June 20: The US Department of State downgraded Thailand to the lowest category in its annual human trafficking report (Trafficking in Persons or TIP) after revelations of human trafficking in sex and fishing industry.
November 1: The European Commission expressed concern and threatened trade sanctions over Thailand’s minimal efforts to fight illegal, unregulated and unrestricted (IUU) fishing.
August 3: A Down’s syndrome surrogate baby allegedly rejected by Australian parents received international attention after his story was posted on an online fundraising website. This incident shed some lights on legal loopholes of surrogacy laws in both Australia and Thailand.
August 15: Thailand’s public health ministry submitted a draft law banning commercial surrogacy to the National Legislative Assembly. The country did not have laws regulating surrogacy before the scandal. It was a popular destination for couples seeking surrogacy arrangement.
Koh Tao murder
September 15: Two British tourists, one man and one woman, were found dead on the beach of Koh Tao, a popular island resort in the Gulf of Thailand. The pair was murdered and the woman had been raped. The investigation took three weeks before the arrest could be made.
October 2: Two Myanmar migrant workers were arrested and confessed to the crime. DNA tests of the two also matched those found on the victims’ bodies. However, they later retracted their statement saying they were tortured by the police and forced into confessing.
October 14: The British Foreign Office questioned the investigation of the murder by Thai authorities after allegations of torture and misconduct made by the suspects.The British police was later sent to Thailand to observe the investigation.
December 4: Thai court indicted two Burmese suspects for the murder. Their trial began on Boxing Day in Koh Samui Provincial Court in southern Thailand.
Forward in 2015
The coming year will no doubt be another interesting year for Thailand with a possible general election marking the end of military rule and the commencement of Southeast Asia single market or Asean Economic Community (AEC).
Happy New Year!