Head of government Abhisit Vejjajiva
Death penalty retentionist
Population 67.8 million
Life expectancy 68.7 years
Under-5 mortality (m/f) 13/8 per 1,000
Adult literacy rates 94.1 per cent
Freedom of expression suffered a significant setback in 2009 with tens of thousands of Thai websites blocked for allegedly defaming the royal family, and a number of people arrested. The government made little progress in resolving the conflict in the deep south, which was rocked by violence throughout the year. Muslim insurgents raised the level of their brutality, targeting civilians as well as the security forces. Impunity for human rights violations by the authorities continued with no successful prosecutions for a sixth consecutive year. Refugees and asylum-seekers from Myanmar and Laos were forcibly returned to their countries of origin where they risked serious human rights abuses.
For the first time in eight years, the Democrat Party headed the new coalition government, remaining in power throughout 2009. The political conflict that polarized the nation in 2008 continued between the conservative and royalist People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) and the United Front of Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) which is loosely affiliated with deposed Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. The authorities invoked Part II of the Act on Internal Security for the first time in April when demonstrations by the UDD resulted in violence as Thailand hosted an ASEAN summit. They did so five more times throughout the year, including in parts of the deep south, replacing Martial Law there. During the ASEAN summit the police fired live rounds, seriously injuring several people. The authorities then terminated the summit. Later that month, unknown assailants tried to assassinate PAD leader Sondi Limthongkul, firing more than 100 bullets in broad daylight.
An internal armed conflict in the deep south continued throughout the year, with the number of dead in the last six years totalling almost 4,000. The government's various attempts to decrease the role of the military in policy and funding decisions did not reduce the violence. In June, six unknown assailants opened fire on the Al-Furquan mosque in Narathiwat province, killing 10 Muslim worshippers and seriously injuring 12 others.
Freedom of expression
In January, the Senate established a subcommittee to oversee legal action taken against those deemed to have violated the lèse-majesté law. This law prohibits any word or act which defames, insults or threatens the royal family. Also in January, the government created a website to enable citizens to report someone for purported violation of the law. Throughout the year, the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology, in co-operation with the Royal Thai Army, blocked tens of thousands of websites for allegedly breaching the 2007 Computer-related Crimes Act by commenting on the monarchy. In March, police raided the office of online newspaper Prachatai, and briefly detained its director. Three people received prison terms of three to 18 years for violating the lèsemajesté law, bringing to four the total number of convictions in the past two years.