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Thailand: Respected social critic expects political crisis to worsen after election
[March 29, 2006]

Thailand: Respected social critic expects political crisis to worsen after election

(Thai Press Reports Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge)Section: Government and Politics - After the controversial election the political crisis will become systemic and spread throughout society, a renowned social critic warned, The Nation reports.

Even if his Thai Rak Thai Party wins 30 million votes on Sunday, caretaker Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra's legitimacy will continue to be called into question due to his lack of ethics, Thirayuth Boonmee said on March 27.

Thirayuth, who held a press conference at Thammasat University to launch a fresh attack on Thaksin, said the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) should be more selective about staging protests against Thaksin and prepare for a fight that might last a year or longer.

Failure to oust Thaksin will see Thailand become like the Philippines under Ferdinand Marcos or Argentina under military rule, he said.

"I won't accept him even if he gains 30 million votes due to his [lack of] morality and ethics. The electoral system is too narrow a rule [for the whole of democracy]" Thirayuth said. "Do you think that things will end after [the election on] April 2?" Unlike those who believe the election might help whitewash Thaksin and give him a fresh mandate, the Thammasat sociologist said it would likely have the opposite affect by further highlighting the illegitimacy of Thaksin's rule.

"I'm not afraid of the election. I think it will create more problems and reduce the legitimacy of Thaksin, and Thaksin will not be able to govern the country," he said.

After the election the Thai Rak Thai Party might not have the 500 MPs required by law, due to the high probability that its candidates will not attain 20 per cent of the votes in some uncontested constituencies, Thirayuth said.

If this happens the House of Representatives will not be able to convene and a new prime minister may not be appointed.

"This problem will be huge," Thirayuth said.

But even if Thaksin manages to return to power, the election will not remove the stain of corruption left by the tax-free sale of Shin Corp to Singapore's Temasek Holdings, Thirayuth said.

Furthermore, supposedly independent agencies like the Election Commission, the National Counter Corruption Commission and the Constitution Court will lose the last shreds of their credibility, he added.

"Will Thais, various organisations and institutions tolerate the rule of a prime minister who likes conflicts of interest, and lacks morality and ethics in almost all areas? And will they hand power to him to negotiate with foreign states, sign international treaties and welcome diplomats and foreign heads of states for another four years?" Thirayuth urged the PAD to suspend its marathon protest and resume protesting more selectively after the election so those who wish to vote can do so peacefully.

"The PAD should take a break and let problems mount on Thaksin. [It] should be more selective in unleashing heavy punches because Thaksin is already mentally affected by those punches . . . I want them to keep fighting," he said A military coup is definitely unacceptable, he stressed.

Thirayuth urged the PAD to stick to the goal of political reform and expressed his consent for the controversial appeal it made for royal intervention to appoint a new prime minister under Article 7 of the Constitution.

"According to Thai tradition people can seek help from His Majesty. I have no objection to that and I don't think those calling [for it] are regressive," he said.

"Theoretically speaking, [critics of royal intervention] should step beyond the Western frame of thinking," he said, pointing to the bond between the people and the sovereign as another reason for royal intervention.

His Majesty the King, said Thirayuth, can provide the "final conflict resolution" or "conflict conclusion" when all systems of checks and balances have become dysfunctional or the country faces grave crises like the uprisings of October 1973 or May 1992.

"Thais always co-exist with the reserve power [amnaj baramee] of the monarch. For example, the King is also the commander [chorm thap] of the armed forces and the court adjudicates on behalf of the King." Thirayuth also said His Majesty should be regarded as a defender of the Constitution as well as a symbol of democracy.

"[Thailand] does not only adhere to a democratic system alone, but a democratic system with a moral King as its head. So why should the exercise of the right to election alone be used to shut people's mouths, and prevent them from talking about morality in order to oppose the evil use of power?" If the PAD and others failed to dislodge Thaksin, Thirayuth said, the spectre of military-run Argentina and Marcos' Philippines - where the state ruled its people with an iron fist and controlled all media while grass-roots people were organised to defend a populist ideology - would become reality in Thailand.

"Can Thais who have fought for democracy by sacrificing their lives accept this?" he asked.

However, what Thirayuth failed to fully address in his presentation was what to do, after the election, with the rural and urban poor who support Thaksin.

When asked about this, he said: "The impact of populist policy is quite strong. Personally speaking, in a way there's an increased awareness to protect the interests [of the poor]. That must not lead to a violent conflict, however. There are rural people who are against Thaksin too, especially in the South.

"We should not discount them as stupid. They may have an ideological crisis, but they have been fed with [pro-government broadcast] media for decades." Thirayuth also condemned Thai businesspeople for being unwilling to pay the "social cost" of political struggle. He described them as "selfish", saying they only complained about the negative impact the protests and current political impasse were having on the economy.

"[The want stability] but they don't want to invest in politics. They should come out to help strengthen the [political] system," he said.

As for Thaksin's proposal to allow opposition parties and leaders of the movement trying to oust him, such as Sondhi Limthongkul and Chamlong Srimuang, to join a "national government", Thirayuth said it was proof that Thaksin had lost his mind.

"It's more like setting up a government of national insanity," he said, adding that Thaksin manifested psychological swings between hatred and love of his critics and opponents.

"All the problems were caused by Thaksin's greed and anger."

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