Myanmar’s Democratic Struggle at Stake in Thailand’s Election


Thailand’s elections are important not only for the many Thais seeking the end of quasi-military rule in their country but also for the more than 1.5 million Myanmar refugees and migrants who live in the Southeast Asian nation and hope a new government can put an end to Bangkok’s support for the military regime in Naypyidaw.

Thailand itself was rocked by a military coup in 2014 when General Prayuth Chan-ocha seized power from the elected government of Yingluck Shinawatra, solidifying his rule with closely-controlled elections five years later. For Ma Khine Thet, a young researcher from Myanmar, the election offers a glimmer of hope that with different people in charge in Bangkok, Thailand will throw its weight behind the anti-coup movement led by the National Unity Government set up by Myanmar’s overthrown legislators.

On Monday, the Thai parliament was dissolved, paving the way for an election in May. Some have expressed concern that the Thai government might resort to antidemocratic measures to secure victory in the election. Ma Thet said she was anxious that General Prayuth Chan-ocha would restrict free speech, ban opposition politicians, and spread fake news in order to return to power, but if Thailand’s opposition can overcome the not-inconsiderable hurdles and win, it might also give a boost to the NUG in its campaign to be seen as the true representative of the Myanmar people.

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