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Thailand, Government

unitary state, devolution of power, absolute monarchy, constitutional monarchy, basic human rights

Thailand was ruled by an absolute monarchy from 1782 until 1932, when a small group of rebels seized control of the country and persuaded the king to accept the introduction of a constitutional monarchy. The country’s first constitution called for a government headed by a legislature (the National Assembly), with the king maintaining an advisory role as head of state. When the king sought to dissolve the new legislature the following year, the army moved to prevent him, thus becoming the dominant political force in the country. For most of the next half century, Thailand was under the control of various military governments.

In 1997 Thailand’s 16th constitution took effect. It is the country’s first constitution to be drafted by a process involving public debate, and the first to include a bill of rights guaranteeing equality and basic human rights to all citizens. The constitution is intended to move the center of power away from the military and bureaucracy and toward the elected members of the legislature. It contains guarantees for social welfare and environmental protection and requires the government to report its activities.

Thailand is a unitary state, in which the authority of the central government is superior to that of the country’s provincial and municipal governments. However, in recent years pressure has increased for more devolution of power to the provinces and municipalities. All citizens age 18 and older are eligible to vote.

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