Thai court suspends Prime Minister Prayuth from official duties
On 24 August 2022, the Constitutional Court of Thailand suspended Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha from official duties, following a petition from the opposition Pheu Thai party to recognise his eight-year term limit had concluded.
The decision was based on a five votes to four ruling in the Thai court to suspend the current Prime Minister. He is believed to have overstayed his 8-year term limit since assuming power in the 2014 coup after overthrowing then-Prime Minister Yingluck. Under Thai Law, the current Deputy Prime Minister will be temporarily elevated as caretaker Prime Minister until the issue is settled. Prayuth will have 15 days to respond, but it is unclear when the exact date of the final verdict will be delivered.
Some welcomed this decision believing that the country needs new leadership. Others still see Prayuth as having a major political role in the Thai government despite this suspension. Critics of the move argue that this decision is a response to his mismanagement in the government. The spokesperson for the Prime Minister has urged all groups to respect the court’s hearing and decision.
The suspension does, however, reflect Prayuth’s decline in popularity with attention now turning to how the leadership transition will be managed.
The United Nations’ special envoy visits Myanmar
For the first time since the Myanmar crisis, the United Nations’ special envoy to Myanmar, Noeleen Heyzer, visited the country on 16 August in an attempt to address the jailing of Ang San Suu Kyi and the execution of democracy activists.
During a meeting with Min Aung Hlaing, the special envoy urged the junta to cease any future executions, end violence and release political detainees, including Aung San Suu Kyi. In response, the military’s foreign minister encouraged the UN to reevaluate its approach. Heyzer was not able to meet with Aung San Suu Kyi and the special envoy from ASEAN during her visit.
The UN deputy spokesman was positive regarding the meetings, emphasizing that the UN would continue to push for peaceful settlements to be implemented. The junta’s state-run media revealed some aspects of the discussions between Min Aung Hlaing and Heyzer, such as building trust and cooperation between the UN and Myanmar, but further details have not been provided. Some are concerned, however, that the regime used this opportunity to promote itself with little genuine intent for resolution to the crisis.
Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin to attend the G20 Summit in Indonesia
This will be the first international meeting that Vladimir Putin will attend since the Russian invasion in Ukraine, and the first trip for Xi Jinping outside of China since his last visit to Myanmar in 2020. The White House has also verified that President Biden is expected to attend the event. Indonesia has sought to play a mediating role by inviting the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, to also attend the summit.
Despite the official confirmation of Putin’s in-person participation, both Beijing and Moscow have declined to give any further comments regarding their trip in November. A spokesperson from the White House has stated that Putin should not be allowed attend the summit due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Despite these comments, President Widodo has stood firmly in the decision, reiterating Indonesia’s ambition to be a bridge of peace between the disputing actors. Jakarta also hopes to use the summit to discuss the global supply chain issue.
Indonesia has undoubtedly been under pressure to manage the tensions between the three world leaders to get them to the same negotiating table. Close attention will be placed on the global leaders to see if the G20 can be a platform to move closer to resolution on a number of international issues.
Singapore to decriminalize gay sex
On 21 August, Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced a plan to repeal the country’s law that criminalized gay sex and will seek to safeguard Singapore’s existing laws and norms on how marriage is defined.
With the social acceptance of the LGBTQ community in Singapore, the Prime Minister is positioned to repeal section 377A of the Penal Code, allowing the assimilation between the current social mores and the gay community in Singapore. However, the repeal will be limited with same-sex marriage remaining prohibited. The government has committed that it will continue to discuss the concerns of both the conservative religious groups and the gay community to bring a new balance to Singapore.
The Singaporean Prime Minister believed this is the right thing to do, given greater social acceptance in Singapore. The LGBTQ community has applauded the decision, but recognises that Singapore remains a traditionally conservative society where discrimination against the LGBTQ community still persists. On the other hand, religious groups have voiced their disappointment in the decision and its impact on Singapore’s culture and future.
Although the decriminalization of gay sex is a step forward in social inclusion, more must be done to realise full marriage equality in Singapore.
Sovinda Po is a Research Assistant at the Griffith Asia Institute.