Last year I highlighted “media freedom” in Southeast Asia using the detailed comparative information provided by Freedom House. Freedom House also reports on the general “freedom” status of countries and divides them into three categories: Free, Partly Free and Not Free. According to this year’s Freedom House report:

The major positive development in the region was the improvement of Thailand from Not Free to Partly Free, due largely to the loosening of military rule and the holding of parliamentary elections that, despite efforts by the military to skew the results, were widely judged to be free and competitive. But the elections’ outcome–a triumph for a party aligned with Thaksin Shinawatra, the prime minister until his ouster by a 2006 military coup–suggests possible future problems for Thailand’s democracy. The country’s Freedom in the World rating had deteriorated during Thaksin’s term as prime minister, and his leadership style included disturbing elements of populism and authoritarianism. Furthermore, the country’s high level of political polarization remains a serious obstacle to democratic consolidation.

What do New Mandala readers think? Has Thailand jumped from “Not Free” to “Partly Free” in the past year? Or are these pointless comparisions?

For an interesting, visual summary a global map of “freedom” is available here.