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Thailand’s Democracy Score Slips in 2023: Striving for Freedom and Rights Amid Challenges

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Welcome to Thailand, the land of smiles, known for its breathtaking beaches, delectable cuisine, and – as the latest charts have shown – its intriguing position on the global democracy scoreboard. The annual Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) Democracy Index has recently pegged Thailand at 63 out of 167 countries and territories reviewed last year, taking a slight tumble from 55 in 2022. But hey, in the world of democracy rankings, it’s a roller coaster, and Thailand is firmly strapped in for the ride.

Professor Thitinan, a luminary at the Faculty of Political Science, wasn’t taken aback by this dip. In his chat with The Nation, he pointed to the series of suppressed protests over the last two decades as one of the culprits. Add to that, he mentioned, the rather liberal approach to arresting folks and keeping them from the comforting embrace of bail, not to mention the pair of military coups that shook the nation within just ten years. It’s a wonder the decline wasn’t steeper, one might argue.

So, what’s the game plan for an uptick in the rankings? Professor Thitinan, ever the optimist, believes that Thailand could do with a dollop of enthusiasm in upholding basic rights, waving the flag for fundamental freedoms, and singing the song of media freedom with a little more vigor. His prescription includes a dose of law enforcement that doesn’t play favorites. “It’s like Thailand’s justice system is auditioning for a role in the global spotlight,” he mused, suggesting that the world’s a stage and all its countries merely players in the eyes of the EIU index.

With a score of 6.35 out of 10, Thailand finds itself in the “flawed democracy” category, which isn’t as gloomy as it sounds. It’s a bit like being told your glass is half-full when you weren’t even sure you had a drink to begin with. The EIU’s criteria is such that the crème de la crème, the “full democracies”, boast scores of 8 or higher. On the flip side, you have the countries whose democratic credentials are so thin, they’re practically transparent, scoring 4 or less. Thailand cheerfully sits in the middle ground, scoring between 6 and 8.

It’s worth noting that the top of the class included the likes of Norway, New Zealand, Iceland, Sweden, and Finland – countries known not just for their democratic purity but also for their ability to produce excellent dairy products, among other things. Contrast that with the countries languishing at the bottom – Afghanistan, Myanmar, North Korea, Central African Republic, and Syria – it becomes apparent that Thailand is, metaphorically speaking, sitting comfortably in the democracy classroom, neither at the front with the teacher’s pets nor at the back with the troublemakers.

But that’s not all folks. Thailand also made waves in the Freedom House report, an annual survey by the US-based NGO that measures the pulse of civil liberties and political rights across the globe. The country was tagged as “not free” in 2023, fetching 30 out of 100 points. With a breakdown that saw 6 points for political rights and 24 for civil liberties, Thailand’s scorecard suggests there’s room for improvement. But let’s not forget, the journey to freedom is a marathon, not a sprint.

In the grand tapestry of global democracy rankings, Thailand’s position is a fascinating case study. The nation is at a crossroads between tradition and transformation, holding fast to its rich cultural heritage while navigating the choppy waters of political modernization. The way forward? A steadfast commitment to human rights, freedom of expression, and equitable justice – the very principles that make democracy more than just a score on a chart.

As Thailand continues to find its rhythm in the democracy dance, the world watches with keen interest. Will it be a smooth waltz or a bumpy tango? Only time will tell. But one thing’s for sure – in the ever-evolving narrative of nations, Thailand’s story is one to keep an eye on. So, grab your popcorn, folks. This drama is far from over.


  1. ThaiPride February 21, 2024

    Honestly, the decline isn’t surprising, but it’s disappointing. We’ve been facing political instability for too long, and it’s about time we focus on real reforms.

    • BangkokLocal February 21, 2024

      Agreed, but do you really think reforms are possible given the current power dynamics?

      • ThaiPride February 21, 2024

        Difficult, yes, but not impossible. It’s about the collective will. Remember the move towards democracy in the late ’90s? We can do it again.

      • Realist234 February 21, 2024

        Wishful thinking, in my opinion. The power holders have too much to lose. It’s going to be more of the same unless there’s significant external pressure.

    • SiamSunrise February 21, 2024

      The decline might be a wakeup call for many. Let’s use this as momentum for change. It starts with awareness and then action.

  2. DemocracyWatcher February 21, 2024

    I find it interesting to compare Thailand’s situation with its neighboring countries. Seems like a regional trend rather than an isolated case.

    • ASEANAnalyst February 21, 2024

      Definitely a regional issue but also a global one. The surge of authoritarianism isn’t just in Southeast Asia. Look at Eastern Europe, parts of Africa, and Latin America.

  3. LibertyLover February 21, 2024

    Rankings like these are so Western-centric. Why should their criteria be the gold standard for democracy?

  4. CulturalHistorian February 21, 2024

    While the score is concerning, we mustn’t forget the unique cultural context of Thailand. Democracy doesn’t have a one-size-fits-all.

    • LibertyLover February 21, 2024

      I completely agree. Thailand’s pathway to democracy will be different from Western models, and this needs to be respected.

    • RealWorldViewer February 21, 2024

      But isn’t the essence of democracy universal – fair representation, freedom of speech, and human rights? Culture can’t be an excuse for suppression.

  5. FutureSeeker February 21, 2024

    What Thailand needs is a new generation of leaders. The youth seem promising and more aligned with democratic values. Perhaps there’s hope.

    • ProudParent February 21, 2024

      As a parent of two teens, I see this hope every day. They’re more politically aware and engaged than my generation ever was.

  6. SkepticOne February 21, 2024

    Let’s not get too excited about rankings and scores. The real measure of democracy is the wellbeing of its people, and on that front, Thailand has a long way to go.

    • Optimist February 21, 2024

      While I agree to some extent, visibility from these rankings can drive international interest and potentially aid in pushing towards better governance.

    • Realist234 February 21, 2024

      True, but international pressure can only do so much. It’s ultimately up to the Thai people to demand and effect the change they wish to see.

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