Further updated: Abhisit’s royalist boomerang and the failure of royalist reform

27 03 2011

The Bangkok Post’s Achara Ashayagachat is in great form on 27 March 2011. She has two noteworthy articles in the Post.

Her first takes up a theme that has been winding its way through several PPT posts (e.g. here, here and here), where she points to the irony of Article 7 of the Constitution being invoked against current Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva. As she points out, Abhisit “once supported the People’s Alliance for Democracy’s (PAD) call for an invocation of Section 7 of the constitution to pave way for royal appointment of an unelected prime minister to replace Thaksin Shinawatra.”

PAD at Government House

That call led, eventually, along a path to the king’s intervention, calling for and getting the intervention of a shonky judiciary, and a coup in 2006. More than that, PAD is calling for a boycott of any upcoming election, a tactic that the so-called Democrat Party signed up for in 2006.

Abhisit’s then allies in PAD have now bitten the hand that fed them (with others) back then.

Achara notes that PAD is “not the only group promoting the vote-no campaign. Some civil groups working on national reform also support the idea of asking voters to tick ‘vote no’ in the ballot. These groups believe that politicians are evil and the coalition administration has proved to be corrupt and inefficient in eliminating money politics from Thailand.”

Achara chides these groups for its rejection of the electoral system and, implicitly, of the underlying denigration of voters.

Achara’s second article refers to the allegedly “historic” talkfest held by the “National Reform Assembly (NRA) attended by 2,000 community leaders and civic groups at a cost of several million baht to taxpayers ended yesterday with grand words but no guarantees of action.” It seems it was pretty ho-hum. She says:

Anand Panyarachun, chairman of the National Reform Commission (NRC), and Dr Prawase Wasi, chairman of the NRA, presided over a closing ceremony that resembled a bureaucratic workshop. Representatives of eight discussion groups handed over a “declaration of the people” to the two reform leaders appointed by Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva last year.

Anand and Prawase are paid up members of the ruling elite of old men, but are not usually seen as stubborn old men.

Anand received the so-called people’s declaration and said that “debates on reform would hopefully help address conflicts within society which have led to violence. Dr Prawase said he hoped reform would bring a ‘new paradigm’ for the country to place power with the people rather than moneyed interests.” Sounds remarkably like 1997 as the localists and the nationalists signed up for the king’s sufficiency economy. In other words, while the tone is “liberal” – let voices be heard and let reform reign – the outcome is likely to be royalist nonsense that allows little real reform or innovation.

Ho-hum….

Update 1: A reader points to another boomerang that Abhisit seems to have ducked, at least for the moment. The reader points to Abhisit’s October 2008 speech to Parliament and a press conference that flayed then-PM Somchai Wongsawat as being responsible for the one death and several injuries during the PAD street protests (another death was a PAD car bomber who blew himself up, with the funeral being attended by Abhisit and Anand). The reader points to the irony and hypocrisy of Abhisit in the light of the more than 90 killed in April and May 2010.

Apparently the gist of Abhisit’s speech were reported in Matichon Weekend, 23-29 April 2010 and translated by a contributor (Srithanonchai) at Andrew Marshall’s blog (24 April 2010). We copy it here:

Matichon Weekend, 23-29 April 2010, page 9 reported Abhisit’s above quote in the following way (my translation):

“Regarding the entire incident, the prime minister cannot reject being responsible for not performing his duties, or for intending that this incident would occur. But what is worse is to blame the officials, that is, to slander the people. I could not think or dream that we would have a state that does harm to the people, even including deaths and severe injuries, and still have a state that even shifts responsibility to the people. This behavior is unacceptable.

I have heard the government asking this or that person whether they were Thai or not. But regarding your [Somchai Wongsawat] behavior, are you a Thai or not? Are you human or not? Today, politically, your legitimacy is gone already. We demand that the prime minister shows responsibility.” Abhisit referred to resignation or the dissolution of parliament. If Somchai remained idle, this would do harm to the country, and to the political system.

“There is no democratic political system in this world in which the people are harmed by the state, but the government that came from the people does not show responsibility. … Even if the PAD had done something wrong, the government had no right to do harm to the people.”

When the reporters asked Abhisit at that time how come that there could be such a big crisis, while the PM could still remain in office, Abhisit briefly but clearly answered:

“I cannot answer this. I have never been such a person. The normal human beings that I know are not of this kind.”

The paper concluded, “Abhisit’s words in the past and his actions in the present are totally opposite.”

As well as supporting PAD, Abhisit comdemns Somchai as all but inhuman and un-Thai for security forces being responsible for one death. Maybe being responsible for dozens of deaths is human and Thai (royalist variety). But we forget: the military and government continue to claim that security forces killed not a single person….

Update 2: Pravit Rojanaphruk also has a piece on the reform talkfest that is worth reading. These comments are noteworthy:

Besides being seen as opportunistic, the process is also dominated by many people who are aligned or play a key role in the yellow-shirt People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) movement….

Many who this writer spoke to think Prawase and his followers are “shamelessly exploiting” a political opportunity to secure funding and push for reform in accordance with their moralistic view of what constitutes a good society. Others say they utterly failed to address the need for reform of those at the very apex of Thai society – namely the monarchy institution….

Prawase claimed the process was a “new paradigm” as he spoke at the end of the congress yesterday. While such a conclusion is debatable, one thing certainly new is that these people have succeeded in alienating and antagonising many red shirts in the name of a national reform that “transcends the political divide”.

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