Back to country selector
Constitutional history of

In the mid-nineteenth century, Thailand transitioned from a feudal state into an emerging nation-state as it opened its economy to foreign trade. Slavery and serfdom were eliminated, which instigated the breakdown of some traditional hierarchies and prompted judicial and legal reform. The absolute monarchy, however, persisted until a coalition of civil servants and army officers seized power in a bloodless coup in 1932, established Thailand's first constitution, and instituted a constitutional monarchy.

Constitutional history

Since the coup of 1932, Thailand has had 20 constitutions and charters[1] with a series of intervening military coups. These constitutions followed the model of constitutional monarchy, generally with significant power retained by the King. During the first several decades of Thai constitutionalism, various rival factions struggled for power, often resorting to the use of force. New leaders following military coups often sought legitimization and stability by writing new constitutions, thus promulgating a persistent cycle of (1) military coups usurping power, (2) new leaders suspending constitutions, and then legitimating their power with new constitutions until (3) a perceived crisis leading to another coup. Between 1932 and 1991, Thailand experienced ten military coups.[2] Of those ten, eight resulted in the writing of a new constitution.[3]

On 23 February 1991, a military coup led by Generals Sunthorn and Suchinda Kraprayoon unseated the government of General Chatchai (widely considered corrupt), elected in 1988.[4] Although elections were held in March 1992, General Suchinda refused to cede power.[5] In response, 200,000 protesters (organized by General Chamlong Srimuang and consisting of many middle-class Thais) gathered at the Democracy Monument on 17 May 1992.[6] General Suchinda responded with violent military force. Between 17 and 20 May, 44 people were killed, 38 were missing, and more than 500 were injured.[7] This event was to be later known as “Black May”. The violence ended after Generals Suchinda and Chamlong were both summoned by the King for a royal reproach, General Suchinda resigned, and new elections were announced.[8] Those elections were held on 13 September 1992.[9]

The 1997 Constitution

The events of 1992 precipitated calls for political reform that eventually led to the amendment of the 1991 Constitution to allow for a new constitution-building process and the creation of the 1997 Constitution.[10] In February 1997, the National Assembly elected a Constitution Drafting Assembly (CDA) to draft a new constitution for Thailand.[11] The 1997 CDA consisted of 99 members: 76 were representatives elected from each of Thailand’s 76 provinces, and 23 were chosen from academics and other qualified persons.[12] The CDA held several public hearings to gain input on the contents of the new constitution, and submitted a draft to the parliament for approval in August 1997.[13] The draft constitution was promulgated on 11 October 1997.[14]

Termed the “People’s Constitution”, the 1997 Constitution received praise within Thailand and internationally for the participative nature of its drafting, its support of human rights, and its advances in political reform. One of the most significant changes made by the 1997 Constitution was the shift from representative democracy to participatory democracy – achieved through an overhaul of the electoral system,[15] public participation in the appointment of new independent commissions,[16] and the strengthening of the Election Commission (Secs. 136-148),[17] the Administrative Court (Secs. 276-280),[18] and the Ombudsman (Secs. 196-198).[19] Other innovations included the separation of the executive and legislative branches (Chapter VI) and recognition of human rights (Chapter III).

The 2006 Military Coup

A political crisis that spanned 2005 to 2006 eventually resulted in another coup and shift of political power. Corruption charges against Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra in January 2006 sparked mass anti-Thaksin demonstrations and violence between Thaksin’s supporters and his opponents. The situation led to an eventual coup, led by General Sonthi Boonyaratglin, on 19 September 2006.[20] In the wake of the coup, the military junta – the Council for Democratic Reform led by General Boonyaratglin – took power. The King announced that he had revoked the 1997 Constitution and placed the junta in charge of the country. A military tribunal banned Thaksin’s party – the Thai Rak Thai party (TRT) – and barred its leadership from participating in Thai elections for the next five years.[21] On 1 October 2006, The Council for Democratic Reform, renamed the Council for National Security (CNS), appointed a new Prime Minister and promulgated the 2006 Interim Constitution.[22]

The 2006 Interim Constitution

The Interim Constitution was widely criticized by regional and international bodies for being undemocratic and centralizing power with the military junta. While it mandated that the new constitution had to be approved by referendum (Clause 29), it also provided that the constitution drafters would be appointed by the junta (the CNS) (Clauses 23-26). Furthermore, in the event that the drafting process failed or the draft constitution was rejected at referendum, the CNS was to gain considerable direct control over drafting the new constitution (Cl. 32). The CNS retained much of the power in the interim government through its various powers of appointment, recommendation, and countersigning of royal actions (although the King was still deemed the Head of State and the Thai Armed Forces (Cl. 1)). The King was charged with appointing the Prime Minister along with a 35-member Council of Ministers, and the Prime Minister could only be appointed or removed by the King with the consent of the chairman of the CNS (Cl. 14). The legislative branch, or National Legislative Assembly, had to propose and review draft laws (Cl. 9), but with money bills being proposed by the Cabinet (Cl. 10).[23] Its 250 members were also appointed by the King rather than elected (Cl. 5). The 2006 Interim Constitution transferred all power previously held by the 1997 Constitution’s Constitutional Court to a Constitution Judiciary Council consisting of nine members: the President of the Supreme Court; the President of the Supreme Administrative Court; five judges from the Supreme Court selected by other members of the Supreme Court by secret ballot; and two judges of the Administrative Court selected by other members of the Administrative Court by secret ballot (Cl. 35).

The 2006 Interim Constitution established a new Constitution Drafting Assembly (CDA) to oversee the drafting of the new constitution. The CDA consisted of 100 members selected by the CNS (Cl. 23) from a list of 200 National Council members created by the National Council itself (Cl. 22) (the National Council consisted of 2,000 members all appointed by the King (Cl. 20)). The 100 selected members were then formally appointed by the King (Cl. 19). The Interim Constitution further established a Constitution Drafting Committee directly tasked with drafting the constitution and consisting of 35 members: 25 appointed by the CDA and 10 members selected by the President of the CNS (Cls. 25-26).

In April 2007, the Constitution Drafting Committee finalized its draft of the new constitution and submitted it to the larger CDA.[24] The CDA then debated the draft, made amendments, and approved the amended draft constitution on 6 July 2007.[25] The draft constitution was put to a referendum on 19 August 2007 and passed by 57.81% with a turnout of 57.61% of eligible voters.[26]

The 2007 Constitution

The 2007 Constitution included some significant innovations. While it did not provide for a wholly elected Senate, neither did it contain the earlier proposal creating a National Crisis Council that would have given the military significant control over the administration of the government in times of national crisis.[27] The 2007 Constitution also allowed people to directly submit constitutional challenges to the Constitutional Court (Sec. 212), and gave more power to the courts by allowing high-ranking judges to be on various Selection Committees which selected candidates for the Senate and independent agencies.

The King

The 2007 Constitution put in place a constitutional monarchy. The King remained the Chief of State but ceded much of his direct power to the Prime Minister as the head of the government. The King remained nominally the head of the Armed Forces (Sec. 10), and the protector of all religions in the country (Sec. 9). He also retained some traditional powers such as the appointment of heirs (Sec. 22) and the power to grant pardons (Sec. 191). The King could, if he so chose, appoint members to the 18-person Privy Council that assisted the King directly (Sec. 12). These Councilors were removable only by the King, and they acted as his personal advisors in all matters relating to the King’s duties.


The 2007 Constitution imposed many restrictions on the executive branch. For example, it declared that a Prime Minister may only serve for eight years (Sec. 171) and required the Prime Minister’s family members to declare all assets while forbidding them to be partners or shareholders in any companies (Sec. 269). Other provisions, aimed at addressing corruption such as that alleged against the former Prime Minister Thaksin, granted the public more power to submit laws (Sec. 163) [28] and seek transparency. For example, citizens could directly petition the Senate to dismiss the Prime Minister and other officers (Sec. 164). Local governments also faced new requirements of transparency and accountability. As in other parliamentary systems, the Prime Minister was selected through an election in the House of Representatives, and so was usually the head of the prevailing party in the national elections. The Prime Minister was then officially appointed by the King to be head of the executive branch. The King, though, had the power to appoint another 35 Ministers to comprise the Council of Ministers (Sec. 171). This Council created policies for the administration of the government and execution of the laws and was accountable to the legislature for its actions.


The 2007 legislature was the National Assembly. It was bicameral, with a partially elected Senate and a fully elected House of Representatives. In total, the legislature contained 630 members. The Senate had 150 members, 74 of whom were appointed by the Senate Selection Committee rather than elected (the other 76 Senators were elected, one from each province, or Changwat) (Secs. 111-114). When not acting in concert with the House as the full National Assembly, the Senate had fairly limited legislative powers. Still, the Senate was in charge of scrutiny of appropriations bills (Sec. 168) and the Council of Ministers (Sec. 162), as well as the actions of the independent organs. The Senate also advised and consented to the appointment of persons to various courts and independent organs.[29] The Senate could not be dissolved, and Senators sat for six-year terms (Sec. 117). The other 480 members of the legislative branch sat in the House (Sec. 93). Four hundred of these House representatives were elected on a constituency basis, while the other 80 were elected on a party-list basis (Sec. 93). The House had the true legislative power, and it could also remove the Prime Minister and Council of Ministers through a vote of no-confidence (Secs. 158-159). While House members sat for four-year terms (Sec. 104), the House could be dissolved by the King at any time before the end of that term (Sec. 108).


In the 2007 Constitution as in the 2017 Constitution, the highest court of Thailand is the Constitutional Court. This nine-judge panel was selected in various ways (Sec. 204). Three members were elected by the Supreme Court of Justice from among its ranks. Two were similarly elected from the Supreme Administrative Court. The final four were not judges prior to obtaining this post. The 2007 Constitution mandated that two of these members must be legal professionals, while the other two members must be in the fields of political science, public administration, or other social sciences with a background in public administration. These four judges were selected by the Selection Committee specific to the Constitutional Court, comprised of the other judges of the Constitutional Court, the presidents of the House majority and minority, and one president from among the presidents of the “statutory Independent Bodies.” (Sec. 206(1)). The Senate then approved the nominations, and the King officially appointed them to the Court. The Constitutional Court was empowered with discretionary jurisdiction to hear cases pertaining to constitutional issues, whether they were raised in the process of a case or submitted for review by private persons. Additionally, the Court could resolve disputes between government entities (Sec. 214).

Independent Organs

Some of the most important provisions of the 2007 Constitution were those creating various independent agencies to oversee the politics of Thailand. These agencies were created in an attempt to prevent the reoccurrence of political unrest that precipitated the 2006 coup. The National Human Rights Commission, though already existing in the 1997 Constitution, was newly empowered to directly submit complaints and recommendations regarding human rights violations to the Constitutional and Administrative Courts and to file lawsuits on behalf of those injured by human rights violations (Secs. 256-257).[30] Further, while the 1997 Constitution created a position for up to three Ombudsmen, the 2007 Constitution created the Office of the Ombudsmen, giving the Ombudsmen personnel and budget for their activities. Their powers of oversight and reporting were also expanded, and it became a constitutional requirement that the Ombudsmen’s reports be published in the Government Gazette (Secs. 242-245).[31] The Election Commission’s powers and duties were expanded to include powers of audit, duties to help educate the Thai public about democracy, and explicit power to make rules for Ministers in the performance of their duties (Sec. 236).[32] The State Audit Commission shrank from ten members to seven, and its powers of audit were newly codified in the Constitution rather than determined solely by organic act (Sec. 252-254).[33] The powers of the National Counter Corruption Commission remained substantially the same between the 1997 and 2007 Constitutions (Secs. 246-251).

The 2014 Military Coup

An election following the promulgation of the 2007 Constitution was held in December 2007, resulting in the People’s Power Party (PPP), a Thaksin-allied political party led by Samak Sundaravej, winning almost an absolute majority of seats in the Thai parliament.[34] In December 2008, anti-Thaksin protesters called the “Yellow Shirts” (formally known as the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC)) seized two international airports in Bangkok following six months of protests against the pro-Thaksin PPP.[35] Their occupation ended when the Constitutional Court dissolved the PPP for election fraud in the 2007 election.[36] However, in the 2011 elections, the pro-Thaksin Pheu Thai (PT) party led by Thaksin’s sister Yingluck Shinawatra won a decisive victory.[37] This election win occurred against the backdrop of pro-Thaksin “Red Shirt” protests against the military.[38] Increasing political violence beginning in November of 2013 eventually led to another military coup on May 22, 2014.[39]

In October 2013, the PT-controlled legislature passed an amnesty bill for all persons and parties involved in any previous acts of political violence.[40] The bill was strongly opposed by the anti-Thaksin PDRC Yellow Shirts, as well as some pro-Thaksin “Red Shirts”.[41] The PT later withdrew the bill, but by then the protests had morphed into a call (from the PDRC Yellow Shirts) for the toppling of the PT government.[42] The focus of the protests partially shifted to the PT government’s “rice-pledging scheme”: an economic move that lost Thailand billions of U.S. dollars in rice sales and included many loopholes that allowed for the siphoning off of money.[43]

In response to the allegations of corruption, the PT government dissolved the parliament and called for a snap election on 2 February 2014.[44] The PDRC Yellow Shirts, however, actively boycotted the elections and called for greater reform than a new parliament – they demanded that the government relinquish all caretaking duties as well.[45] Violence then broke out between armed protesters from the Yellow Shirts and Red Shirts at election polling sites.[46] It was after three months of this political violence that the military declared martial law on 20 May 2014. After that, General Prayuth Chan-ocha summoned the leaders from the opposing political sides and attempted a negotiation process.[47] After talks broke down, the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), led by General Prayuth, seized control of the country on May 22 – possibly aided by the fact that the military temporarily detained the leaders involved in the negotiation talks during the coup transition.[48] General Prayuth announced that elections would be held in October 2015.[49]

The 2014 Interim Constitution and the Drafting Process for the 2017 Constitution

On 22 July 2014, two months after the military coup, the NCPO (the new military junta) announced the 2014 Interim Constitution, drafted by an advisory committee appointed by the NCPO and signed by King Bhumibol Adulyadej.[50] This Interim Constitution granted “sweeping powers” to General Prayuth and also established a drafting process for a new constitution.[51]

The 2014 Interim Constitution created two entities directly responsible for the drafting and approval of a new draft constitution: the National Reform Council (NRC) and the Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC). The NRC consisted of 250 members appointed by the King on recommendation of the NCPO and was tasked with recommending reform and guidance in several areas, including the work of the CDC (Secs. 27-31). The CDC itself was designed as a 36-person committee consisting of: 20 NRC appointees; five appointees each from the National Legislative Assembly, the Council of Ministers, and the NCPO; and a Chairperson appointed by the NCPO (Sec. 32). The CDC member selection process was therefore entirely controlled by the NCPO and NCPO-appointed bodies. The CDC was tasked with proposing a draft constitution to the NRC within 120 days of receiving initial guidance from the NRC on the drafting process (Sec. 34). The CDC was also required to submit a draft constitution to the Council of Ministers and the NCPO for recommendations (Sec. 36).

After many delays, in September 2015 the CDC’s draft constitution was presented to the National Reform Council for a vote; however, the constitution draft was rejected.[52] The draft was largely disapproved of by many different political camps.[53] Subsequently, and in accordance with the Interim Constitution provisions, the CDC and NRC were both dissolved and the process started over.[54]

On 5 October 2015, the NCPO itself selected 21 individuals to constitute the second Constitutional Drafting Committee and charged the Committee with drafting a constitution within six months.[55] This second CDC created a draft constitution that was this time approved by a newly formed NRC and presented to the public on 26 March 2016.[56] Next, a national referendum was scheduled so the public could vote on the draft constitution. However, ahead of that referendum, much public debate over the draft was banned by legislation and activists and journalists critical of the draft were arrested.[57] A referendum on the draft constitution was held in August 2016.[58] The referendum passed by a 61.45% majority with a turnout of 55% of eligible voters.[59]

In January 2017, King Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun (who succeeded to the throne in October 2016 after the death of his father King Bhumibol) unexpectedly recommended constitutional changes to the National Legislative Assembly (the NCPO-appointed legislature), after the referendum but before the constitution’s promulgation.[60] In doing so, King Maha broke from the tradition of royal non-intervention on political matters. There was no explanation for the requested changes from the military government or the royal household,[61] except that King Maha requested the changes to “ensure his royal powers”.[62] Some suggested changes removed draft provisions requiring government consultation before royal actions, and therefore preserved the King’s decision-making power, including in times of political crisis.[63] The NCPO accepted these changes, and King Maha signed the constitution; it was then ratified on 6 April 2017.[64]

The 2017 Constitution

The King

The 2017 Constitution includes several innovations from the 2007 Constitution. As under the 2007 constitutional scheme, the King has little direct power. However, King Maha’s successful last-minute amendment requests did grant the King control over whether to appoint a regent in his absence, and the power to choose this regent (Sec. 20-22).[65]

Just as in the 2007 Constitution, the King has the power to veto legislation passed by the National Assembly subject to an override of a two-thirds vote by the Assembly (Sec. 146). The King also retains the power to dissolve the House of Representatives and call for a new general election (Sec. 103).

The 2017 Constitution includes several innovations from the 2007 Constitution. As under the 2007 constitutional scheme, the King has little direct power. However, King Maha’s successful last-minute amendment requests did grant the King control over whether to appoint a regent in his absence, and the power to choose this regent (Sec. 20-22).[65]

Just as in the 2007 Constitution, the King has the power to veto legislation passed by the National Assembly subject to an override of a two-thirds vote by the Assembly (Sec. 146). The King also retains the power to dissolve the House of Representatives and call for a new general election (Sec. 103).


The process of selecting the executive branch is substantially the same in the 2017 Constitution as in the 2007 Constitution. The Prime Minister must be selected from among the House of Representatives and with the approval of over half of the House (Sec. 159). The King then officially appoints the person who received the approval. The Council of Ministers is then appointed by the King, who is empowered to appoint up to 35 members (the maximum number of members in the Council) (Sec. 158). Each Minister is removable by the King upon the advice of the Prime Minister (Sec. 171).


Under the 2017 Constitution, the National Assembly of Thailand remains a bicameral legislature consisting of a House of Representatives and a Senate (Sec. 79).

The House of Representatives now consists of 500 members instead of 480; 350 members are directly elected by constituents while the other 150 are chosen from party lists (Sec. 83).[66] Members of the House serve four-year terms (Sec. 99). Bills must originate in the House and be submitted by either the Council of Ministers, a minimum of 20 members of the House, or a petition supported by at least 10,000 citizens eligible to vote (Sec. 133). House members may also initiate no-confidence proceedings against the Prime Minister, an individual Minister, or the Council of Ministers by a one-fifth vote, and they may adopt a vote of no-confidence by over half of all members of the House (Secs. 151, 158).

The Senate now consists of 200 members instead of 150, appointed according to the Organic Act on Installation of Senators – their appointment is no longer governed by constitutional provisions (Sec. 107).[67] Senators serve five-year terms (Sec. 109), and are not allowed to be associated with any political party (Sec. 113). Similar to the Senate under the 2007 Constitution, the 2017 Constitution Senate’s powers derive mainly from their involvement in scrutiny and appointment confirmations.

Besides passing bills, members of the National Assembly have a variety of other powers. Legislators may petition the King to call an extraordinary session upon agreement of at least one-third of the Assembly (Sec. 123). They may also submit a bill to the Constitutional Court for review of its constitutionality by a vote of at least one-tenth of the Assembly (Sec. 148).

The 2017 Constitution emphasizes the strict rules in place to prevent corruption amongst legislators (Sec. 144). Several provisions are also dedicated to preventing “conflicts of interest” for legislators and Ministers, such as: possible bribes; undue influence in business or government employment or compensation; or potential to obstruct the rights of the media.

Selection Committee

In a slight departure from the 2007 Constitution, the 2017 Constitution establishes a single Selection Committee that is empowered to appoint members of the Constitutional Court and the constitutionally-created independent organs. Permanent members of the Selection Committee are: the President of the Supreme Court as Chairperson; the President of the House of Representatives; the House Leader of the Opposition; and the President of the Supreme Administrative Court (Sec. 203). Additional members to the Selection Committee are appointed either by the independent organs (in the case of appointments to the Constitutional Court) (Sec. 203) or the Constitutional Court in conjunction with independent organs not currently in the appointment process (in the case of appointments to an independent organ) (Sec. 217).


The judicial branch is composed of Courts of Justice (criminal courts) (Secs. 194-196), Administrative Courts (Sec. 197-198), Military Courts (Sec. 199), and the Constitutional Court (Secs. 200-214). The 2017 Constitution continues the Thai constitutional tradition of paying special attention to the Constitutional Court: provisions specific to the Constitutional Court make up over half of all the Constitution’s judicial provisions.

The composition of the Constitutional Court changes slightly from the 2007 to the 2017 Constitution. The Constitutional Court still consists of nine judges (Sec. 200). The 2017 Constitution still dictates that three of these judges be experienced members of the Supreme Court (the highest Court of Justice), elected by the Supreme Court itself. Two judges must still be experienced judges of the Supreme Administrative Court, similarly elected by the Supreme Administrative Court itself. One judge must be an accomplished university professor in law, and one must be an accomplished university professor “in political science or public administration”. The final two judges, in a break from the 2007 Constitution, must be selected from among high-level government officials.[68] Power over the selection of these last four judges goes to the Selection Committee, which in this instance consists of: the President of the Supreme Court as Chairperson; the President of the House of Representatives; the House Leader of the Opposition; the President of the Supreme Administrative Court; and others appointed by other constitutionally-created Independent Organs (Sec. 203).

The approval process, term lengths, and powers for the Constitutional Court remain substantially the same in the 2017 Constitution. Every appointee to the Constitutional Court must be approved by at least one-half of the Senate (Sec. 204). Constitutional Court judges serve non-renewable seven-year terms (Sec. 207). Cases may reach the Constitutional Court by referral from another court (Sec. 212); by individual petition (Sec. 213); or by submission by the Prime Minister or one-tenth of the total members of the National Assembly (Sec. 148).

Independent Organs

The 2017 Constitution removed some constitutional organizations and reformed others. One substantial change is that no independent organ now has its reports published publicly in the Government Gazette.

Under the 2017 Constitution, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) no longer has the power to submit complaints or reports to the courts, and it may no longer file lawsuits on behalf of those injured by human rights violations.[69] The NHRC’s duties instead include reporting human rights violations to the National Assembly and the Council of Ministers and issuing recommendations to prevent or provide redress for such violations (Sec. 247). The NHRC is also generally tasked with promoting and protecting human rights in Thailand, as well as reporting “the correct facts without delay when there is a report on the human rights situation in Thailand which is incorrect or unfair.” (Sec. 247). The NHRC consists of seven members who serve non-renewable seven-year terms (Sec. 246). Instead of being appointed by the King and Senate, NHRC members are instead appointed through a special process dictated by organic act that includes the participation of outside human rights organizations (Sec. 246).[70]

The State Audit Commission (SAC) has substantially the same powers as under the 2007 Constitution: to create government audit policy and to advise on the spending of government funds. Additionally, the 2017 Constitution gives the SAC power to order penalties in the case of governmental fiscal irresponsibility (Sec. 240).[71] The SAC consists of seven members chosen by the Selection Committee (Sec. 238) who serve non-renewable seven-year terms (Sec. 239).

The number of Ombudsmen according to the 2017 Constitution is set at three, all appointed by the Selection Committee (Sec. 228) and who serve non-renewable seven-year terms (Sec. 229). The Ombudsmen still have the powers of fact-finding and recommendations for changes in the event of government misconduct (Sec. 230). The Ombudsmen may also still refer matters of government misconduct to the Constitutional or Administrative Court if the matter is within their respective jurisdictions (Sec. 231).

The National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) has substantially the same powers and composition as the National Counter Corruption Commission of the 2007 Constitution. The NACC consists of nine members chosen by the Selection Committee (Sec. 232) who serve non-renewable seven-year terms (Sec. 233). The NACC is specifically empowered to investigate accusations of corruption or other misconduct when levied against political officials, members of Independent Organs, the Auditor-General, or judges of the Constitutional Court (Sec. 234). The NACC is also empowered to make determinations upon their investigations and to require the investigated persons to disclose financial information related to themselves and their families (Sec. 234). In a slightly augmented method that is less open to public scrutiny, members of the NACC may themselves be investigated for corruption and other misconduct upon accusation by at least one-fifth of the National Assembly or a petition signed by at least 20,000 persons providing reasonable evidence; in such a case, the President of the Supreme Court will appoint a panel of independent investigators to handle the matter (Secs. 236, 237).[72]

The Election Commission retains substantially the same powers under the 2017 Constitution – it has considerable power over elections, including the power to hold, supervise, investigate, and suspend the results of elections (Sec. 224). The Commission is also in charge of supervising the operation of political parties. The organization of the Commission was augmented: it now consists of seven members, five chosen by the Selection Committee and two chosen by the Supreme Court (Sec. 222).[73] The commissioners serve non-renewable seven-year terms (Sec. 223).

Amendments (Section 256)

The 2017 Constitution amendment process differs significantly from the 2007 process. The ways a constitutional amendment may be proposed remain the same: by the Council of Ministers; by at least one-fifth of the House of Representatives; by at least one-fifth of the entire National Assembly; or by a petition from at least 50,000 eligible voters. A proposed amendment must then go through three rounds of voting in the Assembly. Under the 2007 Constitution, each round of voting requires a simple majority vote by the entire Assembly for the amendment to pass. The 2017 Constitution amendment process adds more requirements for amendment passage, including approval from at least one-half of the whole Assembly; one-third of the Senate; and twenty percent of each political party whose members do not hold positions of Minister or President or Vice-President of the House.[74] Proposed amendments to certain provisions of the Constitution further require approval by referendum. Moreover, ten percent of the House, the Senate, or the entire Assembly may submit a proposed amendment to the Constitutional Court for review of its constitutionality.

As in the 2007 Constitution, the 2017 Constitution prohibits any constitutional amendment “which amounts to changing the democratic regime of government with the King as Head of State or changing the form of the State. . . .” (Sec. 255).


While the list of people’s rights in the 2007 Constitution spanned 35 sections, the list of rights in the 2017 Constitution spans 25 sections. Notable changes in rights in the 2017 Constitution are: the simplification of rights of expression and media (Secs. 34-35);[75] the reduction of rights related to public health and welfare (Sec. 47);[76] the removal of several rights regarding access to justice and the criminal justice system (Sec. 29);[77] and the weakening of rights to access government-held information (Sec. 41).[78] Newly enumerated rights include rights of the consumer (Sec. 46) and rights of the mother (Sec. 48). Enumerated rights regarding political parties underwent some change – constitutional provision now specifically permits any law designed “to ensure that the administration [of a political party] be carried out independently and free from manipulation or inducement of any person who is not a member of such party.” (Sec. 45). The provision also authorizes “oversight measures” to prevent and identify election law violations.

Just as in the 2007 Constitution, the 2017 Constitution includes caveats and limitations after almost every listed right.

Post-2017 Developments

General elections for parliament were again held in Thailand in 2019. In February 2019, before the election, the Constitutional Court dissolved the latest incarnation of Thaksin’s party, the Thai Raksa Chart party (“Thai Save the Nation”, or TSN).[79] TSN had nominated Princess Ubolratana Rajakanya (King Maha’s sister) as their leader, and it was on this basis that the Court dissolved the party for “undermining the constitutional monarchy”.[80] The general elections were held on 9 March 2019, amid several complaints alleging election fraud.[81] A pro-army party led by General Prayuth claimed victory.[82] In November 2019, the Constitutional Court dissolved the third-largest party in parliament, the Future Forward Party (FFP), for an illegal loan; the FFP and its leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit had been especially critical of Prime Minister Prayuth.[83] Student anti-government protests erupted in response to the Court’s dissolution of the FFP, and anti-government protests continued.[84]

[1] Kotani, H. and Ono, Y.,‘Thailand’s new constitution favors the monarchy and military’, Nikkei Asia, 13 April 2017,, accessed 14 March 2021

[2] Preechasinlapakun, S.,‘‘Dynamics and Institutionalization of Coups in the Thai Constitution’, Instituted of Developing Economies, Japan External Trade Organization, 4823 (July 2013),, p. 15

[3] Preechasinlapakun, S.,‘Dynamics and Institutionalization of Coups in the Thai Constitution’, Instituted of Developing Economies, Japan External Trade Organization, 4823 (July 2013),, p. 15

[4] Lim, E., ‘Black May 1992 the last shot fired in anger?’, Tour Bangkok Legacies,, accessed 20 March 2021

[5] Lim, E., ‘Black May 1992 the last shot fired in anger?’, Tour Bangkok Legacies,, accessed 20 March 2021

[6] Lim, E., ‘Black May 1992 the last shot fired in anger?’, Tour Bangkok Legacies,, accessed 20 March 2021

[7] Lim, E., ‘Black May 1992 the last shot fired in anger?’, Tour Bangkok Legacies,, accessed 20 March 2021

[8] Lim, E., ‘Black May 1992 the last shot fired in anger?’, Tour Bangkok Legacies,, accessed 20 March 2021

[9] Lim, E., ‘Black May 1992 the last shot fired in anger?’, Tour Bangkok Legacies,, accessed 20 March 2021

System of Government under 2007 Constitution


Political Challenges

Issues Challenges
  • Government transparency and accountability
  • Urban-rural divide – how to equalize the benefits of economic development and ensure equal political representation?
  • Corruption
  • Violent protests between political groups


1932 Bloodless coup removes monarch from power, constitutional monarchy and parliamentary government introduced
1947 Military coup by pro-Japanese Phibun Songkhram
1973 Student riots in Bangkok results in fall of the military government and free elections
1976 Military coup
1978 New constitution passed
1980 Military coup by General Prem Tinsulanonda
1983 General Prem gives up military position to head civilian government
1988 Election replace Prem with General Chaticha Choonhaven
1991 17th military coup since 1932 sees civilian Anand Panyarachun installed as Prime Minister
1992 Mass protests against the results of the election that replaced Anand with General Suchinda Kraprayoon force his resignation and new election of Chuan Leekpai
1995 After government collapse, Banharn Silpa-archa elected Prime Minister

In the wake of corruption charges, Banharn government resigns and Chavalit Yongchaiyudh elected


Asian financial crisis, Chuan Leekpai replaces Chavalit as Prime Minister

Jan. 2001 Thaksin Shinawatra wins elections amid vote-buying allegations and forms coalition government
2004 Ethnic tensions grow after attacks on Muslims lead to more than 100 deaths
2005 After his reelection, Thaksin given new powers to quell the unrest by suspected Muslim militants in the south
19 Sep. 2006 Military leaders stage bloodless coup and retired General Surayud Chulanont appointed interim Prime Minister
2007 Referendum approves a new military-drafted constitution and Thaksin’s party banned from politics, though its reincarnation party (PPP) wins elections
2008 Samak Sundaravej of the PPP becomes Prime Minister amongst bloody mass protest clashes between pro- and anti-government demonstrators

Dec. 2008

Constitutional Court dissolves PPP for election fraud; coalition government forms under the Democrat party
2009 Protests continue among Thaksin supporters


Pro-Thaksin party (PT) wins elections, Thaksin’s sister Yingluck Shinawatra becomes Prime Minister amidst pro-Thaksin protests against the military
Oct. 2013 Bill passed providing amnesty for all persons and parties involved in previous acts of political violence, sparking anti-Thaksin protests; bill is later withdrawn
Jan.-May 2014 Increasing political violence prevents snap elections from being held
20 May 2014 General Prayuth Chan-ocha attempts to start negotiations between the opposing political leaders
22 May 2014 General Prayuth seizes power in bloodless military coup, opposing political leaders detained then released
22 Jul. 2014 Military announces and promulgates interim constitution
Nov. 2014 Constitution Drafting Committee formed
Sep. 2015 After many delays, Constitution Drafting Committee presents draft constitution to National Reform Council; the draft is rejected, the CDC and NRC are dissolved
5 Oct. 2015 The Constitutional Drafting Committee is re-formed with a mandate to produce a draft constitution to the new NRC within six months
26 Mar. 2016 Second draft constitution, accepted the NRC, presented to the public
Aug. 2016 Draft passes by public referendum amidst severe media suppression by the military
Oct. 2016 King Bhumibol dies, his son Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun inherits the throne
Jan. 2017 King Maha unexpectedly recommends changes to the constitution that would increase his autonomy and power; changes are accepted without opportunity for public comment
6 Apr. 2017 New constitution ratified and promulgated
Feb. 2017 Constitutional Court dissolves another pro-Thaksin party (TSN) ahead of the general election
9 Mar. 2019 Pro-military party led by General Prayuth Chan-ocha wins election amidst claims of election fraud