What Thailand must do to improve its democracy index ranking


Impartial enforcement of laws is necessary to promote democracy in Thailand, whose image has deteriorated on the global stage, according to Thitinan Pongsudhirak, a lecturer at Chulalongkorn University.

Thailand has declined in the annual Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) Democracy Index, from 55 in 2022 to 63 out of 167 countries and territories last year.

Thitinan, who is a professor at the university’s Faculty of Political Science, told The Nation that the fall in the EIU index did not surprise him, citing the suppression of protests in the past two decades, people being arrested and denied bail, and two military coups within a decade.

To improve the ranking and strengthen the country’s democratic system, Thitinan said Thailand should demonstrate a greater willingness to uphold basic rights, fundamental freedoms, and media freedom by enforcing laws impartially.

“For outsiders looking at Thailand, it is the Thai justice system that is on trial in the eyes of the world,” he said.

Thailand received a score of 6.35 out of 10 on the EIU index, classified as a “flawed democracy”. The EIU explained that countries with “full democracies” score 8 or more, while authoritarian regimes are found in nations scoring 4 or lower.

Thailand is among the countries classified as flawed democracies, scoring between 6 and 8.

The top five were Norway (9.81), New Zealand (9.61), Iceland (9.45), Sweden (9.39), and Finland (9.30), while the five countries with the lowest rankings were Afghanistan (0.26), Myanmar (0.85), North Korea (1.08), Central African Republic (1.18), and Syria (1.43).

Thailand has not only seen a setback in the EIU index but also in the Freedom House report – the annual survey by the US-based NGO, Freedom House – that measures the degree of civil liberties and political rights.

The country was rated as “not free” in 2023, receiving 30 out of 100 points. Of that total, 6 points were for political rights and the remaining 24 for civil liberties. The full score for the former is 40, while for the latter, it is 60.

Thitinan Pongsudhirak