General Prayuth Chan-o-cha, a former military junta leader and in power as prime minister since the 2014 coup, was formally confirmed in office by general elections of March 2019, which were neither free nor fair. Though Thailand’s army ostensibly follows orders from Prayuth, it answers only to Thailand’s king, who holds complete, unchecked power across the country. The new king Maha Vajiralongkorn has begun to personalize his direct control over military and police units, further centralizing his power.

2020 saw the state of Thailand’s economy deteriorate into its worst conditions since the 1997 financial crisis. Exports and tourism fell sharply, and most economic indicators weakened significantly. The slump resulted from problems in economic management, effects of the U.S.-China trade war, and the impact of the intensifying global COVID-19 pandemic.

Thailand’s Deep South region continues to experience insurgencies. The government’s strategy to combine intensifying repression with continued negotiations with rebel leaders is varying in success. To combat the pandemic, the government placed the country under an Emergency Decree in March 2020.

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