Saturday, September 13, 2008

Still no solution

Thai Takes

ON THE day the Thai government was left hanging in limbo when the Constitution Court ordered Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej to resign, Chaturon Chaisang, a politician widely respected for his democratic credentials, gave his take on the tense political situation in Thailand.

Speaking frankly, the 52-year-old Chaturon, a former deputy prime minister in Thaksin Shinawatra’s administration, painted a gloomy picture of the Thai political landscape.

Here are some excerpts from his two-hour talk at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand in Bangkok on Tuesday evening.

On who is likely to be the People’s Power Party’s candidate for Prime Minister:

There are still many (potential leaders) but not many will last. I anticipate that in less than two months the PPP and its coalition partners, Chart Thai and Matchima Thipataya, will be dissolved and about 140 MPs will be banned from politics.

Article 237 of the constitution provides for the dissolution of a party if an executive member is found guilty of violating the election law and the party is found in complicity.

(On Thursday, the PPP picked Samak again as its prime ministerial candidate despite misgivings by some of its coalition partners, and Samak has accepted the nomination.)

On the immediate future:

Whoever becomes PM, it will not help solve the crisis. Samak’s disqualification (the avid chef was convicted and removed from office for receiving money for hosting cooking shows after he took office) is not a big deal because the problem has gone beyond that.

Even if the next PM dissolves parliament and there is an election and PPP, which Samak heads, wins, the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) will still protest against that new government and continue to insist on “new politics” (where 70% of the MPs should be appointed).

Even if the Democrat party (the sole opposition party in parliament) wins the next election, the losing side will do the same thing as the PAD is doing. This is because this country is not ruled by law.

On why the PAD is allowed to occupy Government House:

There’s this logic in Thai society that once there is violence in this country, the government – especially if it is an elected government – has to take responsibility and has to go.

And the military decided to remain neutral after Samak declared a state of emergency in Bangkok on Sept 2. This is a country where an elected government does not have enough power.

On the PAD’s next move:

The PAD leaders face serious accusations, at the least illegally occupying Government House (which is the seat of the Thai government), and at the worse, treason.

And if you wear a PAD hat and think (about evading prosecution), one way is to plan more turmoil. As in the past, when there was (severe) turmoil, the (leaders) were granted amnesty following a military coup.

On the root of the Thai political conflict:

The choice is between upholding electoral democracy and elected government or allowing a tiny group of people – selecting among themselves – to run the country.

On the future of Thai politics:

I don’t see any easy and quick solution because society lacks sound foundation in the ideology of democracy. The foreseeable trend is a ‘prolonged conflict’ with a high risk of violence or another coup or both which may have drastic consequences for the country.

On the Thai media and academia:

More than half the Thai media wants the PPP coalition government to fall and they do not want to report on how the rule of law is not enforced in this country.

And what the people in the rural areas (especially in the PPP strongholds in the north and northeast) are saying about the conflict is “very different” from the pro-PAD reports in some of the Thai media.

Many academics are proposing a dictatorial system. Many of them do not believe in elections. They do not believe people can make decisions through voting.

Chaturon, who headed Thaksin’s Thai Rak Thai after the 2006 coup until the Constitutional Court banned the party and 111 top executives including him, sees irony in Thai politics.

“Samak has been disqualified by the Constitution Court along with the whole Cabinet because he staged a cooking show on television while PAD leaders facing treason charges continue to occupy Government House,” he noted.

(Published in The Star on Sept 13, 2008)


Anonymous said...

Chaturon missed out an important part of this political circus where Thaksin's human shields in the majority of parliament are actively seeking to amend the constitution to white-wash Thaksin's crimes.