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A Thai Media View on Thailand’s Future

26/02/2014

The following article from “The Nation” gives an accurate summary of the dilemma Thailand faces today. Government elected by the people or government appointed by “the great and the good”. 

It comments that there is no single or neutral agency in this country that can insist on laws being followed or enforced. The political turmoil that we now see is the direct result of elected governments not being free to carry out the mandates given them by the electorate. That has always been the case in Thailand. It does not only apply to to the present government led by Thaksin’s sister, Yingluck Shiniwatra.

Technically, the democratic process allows for a number of checks and balances. It is right that an opposition party holds the government of the day to account.

In western societies that is mainly done through and in parliament and is transparent through published and televised debates. Electors can see how their representatives have voted on issues before parliament. Elected governments properly have power because they have been given it by the electorate through the ballot box process. Though it is true, of course, that lobbyists, big business (banks, oil companies) appear to influence some governments to what many would think is an unacceptable degree. HSBC’s money laundering in late 2012 was dealt with through the “old boy network”, no court appearances or convictions, only a 2 billion dollar fine (effectively paid by customers through future bank charges). There are many more examples of which you will be aware.

In Thailand, networks also play a role in checking or restricting a government. Dr McCargo has commented that palace based networks were one of many influences on government in the period 1973 to 2001. Other networks including big business, the judiciary, and the army also get involved.

Thailand became a democracy only in 1932 and I believe will eventually find its own brand of elected government that will fit its unique far eastern culture. Copying exactly a western model would be unlikely to work in a society so different from that of the West. Some would argue anyway that there are deficiencies in how western democracies operate currently.

So, the article below does indeed point out that a single government can not be in total control. What we are seeing is government Thai style. Many networks being part of how the country is governed. Although it does not follow the western model as we expect it to, it can make government problematic. Thaksin tended to fight the networks; Yingluck appears to be working with them to some extent. Compromising, avoiding conflict, going with the flow are strong Thai traits. Suthep, leading the anti-government protesters, is not conforming to those ideals. Though he has little option, given that his party would not win an election, to adopt any other strategy.   :

I would make two final comments.

Firstly, compared with the violence and deaths continuing to occur in the South of Thailand and the daily carnage on Thai roads, what is happening now in Bangkok is being blown out of proportion. The focus in reporting should be on the political issues not on the daily events on Bangkok’s streets. Spin and propaganda should be replaced by reasoned debate and truthful reporting.

Second, compromise and behind the scenes negotiation is more likely than revolution or military coup. The network concept is a strong factor and will continue to be so. It will change only slowly. Government purely by the ballot box has not yet arrived. 

Here is the article.

 

Problems reflect lack of a neutral agency to maintain order

Unless the law can be enforced, what is the reason for a nation to have the rule of law?

The current political conflict was supposed to settle within the legal framework from last year when the government, under Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, decided to dissolve the House of Representative and called a snap election to assemble a new Cabinet to run the country.

Those who disliked the government’s policies, including the proposal of an amnesty bill, had the opportunity to install a new government and leaders they favoured.

Those who wanted to reform the country, including proposals to amend many laws as well as the charter, had a chance to test their ideas on the public and ask for a national mandate to do so.

Those who had a number of good ideas to run and develop their beloved country would also get the right to propose themselves as candidates in the election.

An election is the best forum for all conflicting parties to contest their proposals freely, fairly and peacefully.

The urban middle class protesters and allies in high society did not make the right choice, but pushed forward in an unconstitutional and undemocratic way to have non-elected legislative and executive branches administer the country.

Legally speaking, the idea to have a non-elected government run the country and a people’s council to make the laws is clearly against Article 68 of the current Constitution.

In its wording, the article says no person shall exercise the rights and liberties prescribed in the Constitution to overthrow the democratic regime of government with the King as Head of State under this Constitution, or to “acquire the power to rule the country by any means not in accordance with the methods provided in this Constitution.”

The election is the only right and legitimate way to acquire the power to run the country and to constitutionally empower elected MPs to make laws. No single clause in the charter could apply to supporting a non-elected government.

In the case where a person or a political party has committed an act as mentioned above, “the person knowing of such an act shall have the right to request the Prosecutor General to investigate its facts and submit a motion to the Constitutional Court for ordering cessation of such an act without, however, prejudice to the

institution of a criminal action against such person”, it says.

Cases were brought before the Constitutional Court, but the judgement simply ruled that the anti-government protest was constitutional. Such a verdict set precedence for other court rulings that all actions – including disruption of an election, violence and procession of weapons – committed by the protesters were lawful.

Violence and street battles that have claimed nearly two dozen lives since the end of November loom over the capital and other cities and the trend is for them to increase.

The government and state agencies lack the power to enforce the law to keep peace and order, not only because they are part of the conflicting parties, but also because the judicial branch uses its authority to support the opposing side.

There is no neutral agency in Thailand to act as a state authority to maintain law and order.

The government, its ministries and police are on one side while the judicial, independent agencies including the Election Commission, are on the other.

The military tried to say it’s non-partisan but apparently at least some commanders favour the anti-government allies.

The rule of law is an unlikely option to solve the problem, so real and raw power is likely to.


— The Nation 2014-02-26

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