BANGKOK, Dec. 29 (Xinhua) -- In 2017, Thailand, the global tourist destination hub and the second-largest economy in Southeast Asia, has gone through several transitions.
The cremation ceremony of late King Bhumibol Adulyadej was held in October and Thai people bid their final farewell to the revered king who had reigned over the kingdom for 70 years since 1946. He passed away in October 2016 after hospitalized for several years.
Also in 2017, Thailand's former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, younger sister of influential former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, secretly left the country before the Supreme Court sentenced her to five years in prison. Thailand's Supreme Court in September 2017 found Yingluck guilty of malfeasance in a loss-ridden subsidy program.
Who is going to lead the Pheu Thai Party, which won the last election, to campaign in the promised 2018 general election still remains unknown. There have been some growing signs that current Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, who always doubted and criticized former political systems, might extend his stay in power.
FAREWELL TO THE LATE KING
Thousands of Thai people knelt before a glittering crematorium at Sanam Luang Square in central Bangkok at the stroke of midnight on Oct. 26.
As smoke rose from the crematorium, the fact that his majesty had departed saddened the kingdom once again after the announcement of his death in 2016, as most Thais have known no other king.
The cremation, to many people in Thailand, was the most important event in 2017 and perhaps in decades.
Now, during the royal anthem video played before the beginning of each movie in theaters, pictures of the late king have been replaced by pictures of the late king's only son, Maha Vajiralongkorn, who became the new King of Thailand last December.
Though he has ascended to the throne, the coronation is yet to be held for the new king.
But under his reign, the Thai monarchy may be different.
It is still unclear how actively King Vajiralongkorn intends to reign.
Thitinan Pongsudhirak, director of the Institute of Security and International Studies at Chulalongkorn University, told Xinhua:"The monarchy will not be the same" as the late king's role as monarch was unique.
ESCAPE OF YINGLUCK
On the morning of Aug. 25, Yingluck Shinawatra, Thailand's first female prime minister became the focus of attention around the country again.
She was the defendant in a rice-subsidy case and was later charged with negligence over mismanaging a rice subsidy scheme in which the Yingluck's government bought rice from farmers at a fixed rate, approximately 50 percent higher than global market prices.
She failed to showed up for a court hearing on Aug. 25, the date the Supreme Court had decided earlier to read the final verdict.
The court found her guilty of negligence and sentenced her to 5 years in jail in absentia later.
The former female leader is still at large following her brother, former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra's steps.
Thaksin has been the core person in a decade of political conflicts in Thailand after the military overthrew his government in 2006.
The red shirts, who followed Thaksin and the yellow shirts who are against Thaksin, have always taken to the streets since then when the opposite side was in power.
Yingluck led the Pheu Thai Party, the successor of Thaksin's Thai Rak Thai Party in the 2011 general election and won a landslide victory, though her government was overthrown by the military in 2014 during a political crisis.
The new leader of the pro-Thakin wing remains unclear, but some experts point out that the changes needed for the Pheu Thai Party to win the next general election promised to be held in 2018 seem rather small.
NEW CONSTITUTION, ELECTION
In April 2017, Thai King Vajiralongkorn signed a draft constitution compiled by the current government to promulgate it as the 20th constitution of the kingdom.
The new constitution is just a part of the current government's roadmap to return to civilian rule after a general election.
Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said in October that the general election date would be announced by June 2018 and the general election will be held in November next year.
However, according to the new constitution, 250 senators picked by the military will be empowered to vote for a new prime minister along with 500 elected members of the House of Representatives, which means the new prime minister may not come from the party that wins the majority seats in the House of Representatives.
Kitti Prasirtsuk, director of the Institute of East Asian Studies, Thammasat University, predicted a "weak" coalition government would be found in power after the election.
"I think the new government is very likely to be formed from multiple parties, it could be formed by four, five or six parties... it will be harder for a coalition administration to exercise its policies," Kitti said.
He told Xinhua that the new general election would be a banquet for small political parties and many new parties are likely to be established before the election.
A former senator vowed this year to set up a new political party called "People's Reform Party" to support Prayut to serve again as prime minister, which would be possible under the new constitution.
PRAYUT'S 10 QUESTIONS
In 2017, Prime Minister Prayut put forward a total of 10 questions for Thai people, asking the people to answer 4 questions and 6 questions respectively in May and November relating to Thai politics.
To summarize them, the 10 questions asked the people if former politicians and parties were good, if people were satisfied with the current stability under the current government, and if an election could vote out a prime minister.
He even hinted that former politicians may not bring good governance to the country.
Some Thais answered these questions while some just ignored them.
Thailand's Gross Domestic Product increased 4.3 percent in the third quarter, the best since the current government took power in 2014.
This may be good news for the current government, as in the past three years, Thai people have mostly been unsatisfied about the economic achievements of the government.