Thailand has adopted a parliamentary, democratic form of government, with the King as Head of State under the Constitution, exercising the sovereign power in the administration, as Thailand is a sovereign state free to conduct her internal and external affairs without pressure, control, or intervention from other countries. The sovereign power comprises three branches:
- Legislative power, or the legislature, the institution empowered to pass laws, namely the National Assembly, in the form of a bicameral assembly, made up of a House of Representatives and a Senate. All members of the former are publicly elected, while in the latter, out of 150 senators, one senator is elected from each province, making 76, and the rest are appointed;
- Administrative power, or the administration, the institution that administers public policy and enforces the laws, which is the administration or the government, comprising political officials who are publicly elected to serve as the prime minister and cabinet members to administer the country, and permanent officials, the civil service personnel in the public sector, who implement policies and enforce the laws;
- Judicial power, or the judiciary, exercised by the courts and judges in the name of the state, or the monarch. The power in the trial and adjudication of cases is in line with the provisions in the laws. The courts are divided into the Constitutional Court, Administrative Courts, and Courts of Justice.
The government, or the administration, is the national authority established to administer the country and to plan for national development in various aspects. Its main powers and duties are as follows:
1. Powers and duties in public administration
- Setting policies for public administration and carrying out the tasks in accordance with the policies;
- Maintaining law and order, enabling people to enjoy safety in their lives and property, and to lead their lives in peace;
- Supervising permanent officials to ensure that they effectively implement policies;
- Issuing resolutions for various government units to observe in their implementation.
2. Powers and duties in administering state affairs
- Central administration, comprising ministries, departments, and other government units;
- Regional administration, comprising 75 provinces, with the exception of Bangkok Metropolis, and divided into amphoe (districts) and king amphoe (minor districts), tambon (subdistricts), and mu ban (villages), with a provincial governor as the chief at the provincial level, and a district chief at district level;
- Local administration, for populous communities, in the form of provincial administrative organizations, tambon administrative organizations, municipalities, and two special local administrations: Bangkok Metropolitan Administration and Pattaya City.
The current supreme law of Thailand is the Constitution of the Kingdom of Thailand, B.E. 2550 (2007), which is the 18th constitution promulgated so far. The first charter was granted when the country changed from an absolute monarchy to a parliamentary democracy with the King as the Head of State under the constitution created in 1932.
The 18th Constitution was voted on in a public referendum and received an approval of 57.8%. The general provisions of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Thailand confirm the Kingdom as a democratic regime and establish the following rights and liberties of the Thai people:
- Section 1: Thailand is a united and indivisible Kingdom;
- Section 2: Thailand follows a democratic form of government with the King as Head of State;
- Section 3: The sovereign power belongs to the Thai people. The King as Head of State shall exercise such power through the National Assembly, the Council of Ministers, and the courts in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution. The performance of duties of the National Assembly, the Council of Ministers, the courts, the constitutional organizations, and state agencies shall be in accordance with the rule of law;
- Section 4: The human dignity, rights, liberty, and equality of the people shall be protected;
- Section 5: The Thai people, irrespective of their origin, sex, or religion, shall enjoy equal protection under this Constitution.
The strong point of the 2007 Constitution lies in the provisions for the rights and liberties of the people, and the people’s greater participation in the administration of the country, with their rights, liberties, and equality ensured in various aspects and in practical terms. The term “rights” is clearly defined as the power to freely perform any acts recognized by the laws, while “liberties” means that a person may choose to think, to do, and to speak as he/she wishes, and the term “duties” means acts desired by society, which differ in accordance with each person’s role, so long as those acts do not hurt others. The main issues of rights, liberties, and duties of the Thai people as defined in the current charter are discussed below.
Rights, Liberties, and Equality of the Thai People
The rights and liberties of the Thai people as recognized by the Constitution are divided into ensuring human dignity, equality of individuals, freedom of expression of individuals, and people’s political participation under the Constitution. The concerns involving the rights, liberties, and equality of
the Thai people are detailed in the sections that follow.
Recognition of Human Dignity
The recognition of human dignity refers to prohibition of inhumane treatment of fellow humans, and a person may pursue his/her recognized rights and liberties without violating the rights and liberties of other persons, as described hereunder:
Ensuring equality between individuals
- Human dignity, rights, liberties, and equality of individuals shall be protected;
- The exercising of power by all state authorities shall regard human dignity, rights, and liberties in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution;
- A person may pursue human dignity and his/her rights and liberties in so far as it is not in violation of the rights and liberties of other persons, or contrary to this Constitution or to the good morals of the people. A person whose rights and liberties are violated may invoke the provisions of the specific laws to file a lawsuit or to defend him/herself in court;
- A person shall enjoy the right and liberty of his/ her life and person. Acts of torture, brutality, or punishment by cruel or inhumane means are not permitted.
This Constitution provides equal protection to all Thai people, fairly and indiscriminately, in the following ways:
Recognition of freedom of expression of individuals
- Thai people, irrespective of origin, sex, or religion, shall receive equal protection under this Constitution;
- All persons are equal before the law, and shall enjoy equal protection under the law. Men and women are equal. Unjust discrimination against a person on grounds of difference in origin, race, language, sex, age, disability, physical or health condition, personal status, economic or social standing, religious belief, education, or political view, contrary to provisions of the Constitution, shall not be permitted.
- Persons shall enjoy the equal right to receive education for a period of not less than 12 years, which shall be provided by the state in full, to a standard quality, and without charge. The indigent, disabled, or despondent shall enjoy the same right and be supported by the state, so that they may receive the same education as other persons.
A person enjoys the liberty to express his/her opinion, within certain bounds, including the following rights:
- A person may enjoy the liberty to express his/her opinion, make speeches, write, print, publicize, and express him/herself by other means;
- The mass media have the liberty to express their opinion and to present the news, but with strict concern for professional ethics;
- A person has the right to receive and to gain access to public information in the possession of a government agency, state agency, state enterprise, or local government organization, unless the disclosure of such information shall affect the security of the state, public safety, the interests of other persons who should be protected, or personal data of other persons, as provided by law;
- A person has the right to participate in the decision-making process of state officials in their performance of administrative functions which affect or may affect his/her rights and liberties as provided by law.
Political participation of the people under the Constitution
The Thai people are afforded opportunities to have political participation under the Constitution, as follows:
Duties of the Thai people, as defined in the present Constitution
- An eligible voter has the right to vote in a referendum, as in the case of the public referendum on the draft Constitution of the Kingdom of Thailand, B.E. 2550 (2007);
- A person may enjoy the liberty to unite and form a political party for the purpose of carrying out the political will of the people and engaging in political activities for the fulfilling of such will through a democratic form of government with the King as Head of State, as provided in this Constitution;
- A person has the right to resist peacefully an act committed for the acquisition of the power to rule the country by a means which is not in accordance with the modes provided in this Constitution;
- Eligible voters of not less than 10,000 in number have the right to submit a petition to the President of the National Assembly to consider draft bills, as provided in this Constitution;
- Eligible voters of not less than 20,000 in number have the right to lodge with the President of the Senate a complaint in order for the Senate to pass a resolution removing officeholders from office. The complaint shall clearly itemize offenses committed by such persons. The rules, procedures, and conditions for the lodging of a complaint shall be in accordance with the organic law on counter corruption.
- Every person has the duty to uphold the nation, religions, the King, and the democratic regime of government with the King as Head of State under this Constitution;
- A person has the duty to defend the country, to protect the benefits of the nation, and to obey the laws;
- Every person has the duty to exercise his/her right to vote in an election;
- Every person has a duty to serve in the armed forces, to pay taxes, to render assistance to the official service, to receive education and training, to protect, preserve, and pass on the national arts, culture, and local wisdom, and to conserve the nation’s natural resources and the environment, as provided by law;
- A government official or employee of a government agency, state agency, state enterprise, or local government organization, as well as other state officials, has a duty to act in compliance with the law in order to protect the public interest and to provide convenience and services to the public, in accordance with the principles of good public governance.
Secondary to the Constitution of the Kingdom of Thailand are acts and codes enacted by the legislative branch or the National Assembly, comprising members of the House of Representatives, senators, the speaker of the House of Representatives, and the speaker of the Senate. The principal legislative powers in the administration of Thailand are divided into three areas:
- The power to screen and enact laws;
- The power to consider the national budget;
- The power to monitor the operation of the administration, with the ability to appoint or remove political officeholders.
Legislation in Thailand is enacted in consideration of five objectives:
- Establishing and maintaining law and order, safety, and social security, such as criminal laws or drug suppression acts;
- Ending conflicts, such as laws considered in courts;
- Setting directions and solving social problems at present and in the future, such as town planning laws and education reform laws;
- Allocating resources and setting up economic structures, such as tax laws and budget laws;
- Instituting and defining political and administrative structures, such as setting election dates, and establishing rules for operation of the National Assembly, the courts, and the Council of Ministers.