Unelected and unrepresentative

29 05 2013

As the constitutional amendment debate heats up once again, the yellow-shirted allies including the Democrat Party and a range of ultra-royalists are coming together to parrot their opposition. This is an alliance that has remained largely unchanged since 2005 and which has not changed its stance on the junta-initiated constitution since 2007.

Interestingly, one of the key yellow groups has been the mainly unelected “Group of 40 Senators.” Outspoken, ultra-royalists aligned with the most right-wing groups  and the military, this group is critical in opposing constitutional change and maintaining anti-democratic political positions.

In doing this, they protect themselves. At The Nation, it is reported that the unelected junta spawn senators oppose “efforts to amend the Constitution to require all senators to be elected…”.  Elections are anathema for this group as they know that elections reject royalists like themselves.

While “checks and balances are required, this undemocratic lot have shown little tolerance for elections or for the parties elected. In fact, they have repeatedly denigrated the electorate as “buffaloes” and “uneducated.” Far from being “independent,” these senators have acted as if they are nothing more than the extremist wing of the Democrat Party.

One of these extremists, Rosana Tositakul, explains that:

…  the Group of 40 Senators … was formed in 2008 when senators, who were opposed to charter amendments, held a meeting. That day, 40 senators joined the meeting so the group took the name of the Group of 40 Senators…. Since the group was formed, their members have had luncheon meetings every month by using birthdays of group members for the dates for get-togethers. They often discuss current issues. Senator Paibul Nititawan coordinated and scheduled the meetings.

Rosana, who has a middle-class NGO background, embraces the royalist-military perspective on the Senate:

Senators should come from several professions. Since critics say appointed senators were selected by only a seven-member panel, I would like each profession to nominate a representative qualified to be a senator to be elected by the people, so that they will not be attacked as not being accountable to the community….

These critics should not neglect the experience of  elected upper houses in other countries. Elected senators can be critical. This was demonstrated for Thailand when an elected Senate provided a base for a critical group that repeatedly challenged the then Thaksin Shinawatra government.

Updated: The tug-of-war continues

2 05 2013

A spate of news reports attest to the continuing political struggle in Thailand as disgruntled royalists seek to undermine the elected government of Yingluck Shinawatra. These battles focus on Thaksin Shinawatra, the events of 2010 and the military junta’s 2007 constitution. In this post, in no particular order of significance, we summarize some of these struggles and reports.

A critical royalist ally is the judiciary, which continues to punish red shirts and to “teach lessons” in power to those who oppose royalist political domination. This is made especially clear in a report at the Bangkok Post that has the Appeals Court upholding a “Criminal Court’s ruling, denying Pheu Thai Party MP Korkaew Pikulthong bail and sending him back to Laksi temporary prison.” Korkaew is one of the red shirt leaders who was bailed on terrorism charges from 2010 – lower level red shirts remain in jail on related charges or have already been convicted. His bail was withdrawn by the Criminal Court for allegedly “threatening the judges of the Constitution Court.” His appeal was denied because “Korkaew showed no regret…. There was no assurance that he would not break the conditions again if he was granted bail…”. This is punishment for challenging the judiciary and is meant to send a message of the inviolability of that royalist bastion.

On the other side, flip-flopper-in-chief at the Department of Special Investigation Tharit Pengdit has announced that former premier and current Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva and his former deputy Suthep Thaugsuban will be summoned to acknowledge additional charges of authorizing killings during the 2010 red shirt rallies. These charges relate to events including the “the murder of Kunakorn Srisuvan and the attempted murder of Samorn Maithong, a van driver who was seriously injured in the same incident in which taxi driver Pan Kamkong was shot dead.” Tharit reaffirmed that “military officers ordered to crack down on red shirt protesters in 2010 could not be held responsible for the deaths of civilians killed as a result.” PPT wonders when other members of the coterie of officials, military brass, Democrat Party politicians and Tharit himself, as part of the infamous Centre for Resolution of the Emergency Situation (CRES) that was responsible for implementing the various actions against red shirt protesters. That aside, building pressure on Abhisit and his lot is causing increased hatred of Thaksin Shinawatra and his allies on the royalist side as those who have murdered citizens in political acts in the past have generally done so with impunity.

A focus of the political rivalry is constitutional change. The royalists and others who supported the military junta’s drafting of the 2007 constitution repeatedly claimed that if the opposition to the military and its coup didn’t like the basic law, they could easily change it if their party won an election. Of course, the military-royalist coalition assumed that they could engineer a Democrat Party election victory and protect the constitution. But the Democrat Party has lost every election to Thaksin-backed parties and so the promises were quickly buried and there has been rabid opposition to any constitutional change.

One of the demon seed elements of the constitution is appointed, unelected senators. Interestingly, as part of the push for constitutional change, Puea Thai MP Sunai Jullapongsathorn has proposed that “the terms of all appointed senators be ended once the charter revisions take effect. Elected senators would be allowed to carry out their duties till their terms have ended.” At present, it seems that the unelected lot are in place for several more years while the terms of elected senators end next March. This proposal is an attack on one of the significant elements of the constitution that maintains royalist-military political domination even when elected governments are in place. Hence, the anti-democrats support the military junta’s spawn. For example, Democrat Party MP Thana Cheeravinit babbled that “appointed senators had taken up their posts legally in accordance with the Constitution. He said appointed senators have contributed to the country and should not be deprived of their constitutional rights.” Their contribution to the “country” is actually to support the anti-democratic minority and the royalist elite.

The current struggle’s epicenter is the Constitutional Court, which has repeatedly demonstrated political bias and remarkable corruption. A relatively small group of red shirts has been protesting at the Court. Now some of them are calling “on fellow red shirts nationwide to join a rally in front of the court next week in order to step up pressure against the nine members of the bench,” and hope for tens of thousands to rally in support. The royalist judges continue with their consideration of petitions by fellow royalists that seek to declare more than 300 MPs and senators to be, in effect, treasonous in their intent to make constitutional changes. The Bangkok Post reports that the Court’s legally bizarre bid to force these representatives to “explain their stance” has been extended by 15 days. The extension is because every single representative has so far refused to comply with this kangaroo court’s preposterous interference with the legislature. Of course, the biased judges “decided to postpone consideration of a petition by Pheu Thai MPs seeking its ruling on the parliamentary status of opposition leader Abhisit…” related to his loss of military rank and the related question of his status as an MP.

Finally, and perhaps the most sordid of the battles, is the anti-democrat’s response to Yingluck’s speech in Mongolia. That speech, which was a spirited defense of electoral democracy and a statement of the events of recent years has caused considerable royalist and anti-democratic hatred to be expressed. The yellow social media and media are alive with claims that a speech on democracy and its challenges in Thailand amounted to spin and deceit or even “treason,” and there have been related and very nasty and deeply sexist remarks that she is a whore for finally standing up and speaking some truths about the anti-democrats. One of those truths is that the royalists and their political allies are democracy haters.

Update: And, of course, we should have mentioned the battle over Thaksin and amnesty, which has also re-heated. The Bangkok Post reports that the deposed prime minister backs Chalerm Yubamrung’s proposed amnesty bill and says: “I want to come home. Tell the Democrat Party not to worry. If I come back, I don’t want anything…”. That last claim might be hard to believe, but whenever Thaksin talks of return, the coup supporters quickly reassemble for another bout of anti-Thaksinism. There will again be plenty of heat around Thaksin.

Oppose everything!

3 04 2013

The Democrat Party seems stuck in a yellow past. Or perhaps it is just that they feel ever so comfortable opposing Thaksin Shinawatra and PAD-like, considering every move the government makes as being either to exonerate him or for him to somehow to gain control of Thailand as his personal fiefdom.

So it is that Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva opposes any change to the 2007 constitution that was spawned by the military junta. His reasoning, as detailed in the story is: “they are designed to help the ruling party cling to power rather than improve the political system…. Abhisit said the changes, if approved, would enhance the government’s leverage and serve vested interests.”Abhisit

Perhaps less disingenuously and recognizing that his party seems unable to win national elections, Abhisit said that the effort “to require that all members of the Upper House be elected” was an attempt to “ensure the chamber was filled with government lapdogs.” Some readers may recall that making the Senate half appointed was the military junta’s effort to ensure that parliament could be controlled by the conservative elite. Indeed, the current unelected senators are royalist lapdogs.

So while Abhisit bleats about upholding “democracy and transparency,” he is clearly no democrat. Real democrats would support an elected senate. When in office, placed there by the military-palace cabal, he demonstrated no democratic inclinations.

Abhisit’s recent statements at the yellow-hued island in a sea of red in Khon Kaen saw him expressing his political inclinations differently:

“We are here to bring the truth to the people,” Mr. Abhisit said to a fiery crowd [of yellow shirts]. “We want to show that Thailand is not one of Thaksin’s possessions. We want to protect our democracy and our king.”

Truth from the Democrat Party would be an innovation. Nothing much changes for Abhisit or the Democrat Party. Neither are interested in democracy that isn’t Thai-style, meaning royalist domination and little else.

Never, ever, not now, not ever….

9 01 2013

The Nitirat group of Thammasat University law lecturers is again making proposals related to constitutional change. In an article at the Bangkok Post: attention is given to Nitirat’s proposal that political amnesty be a part of constitutional reform.

Because the Yingluck Shinawatra government has faltered on “an amnesty process for rank-and-file red shirts accused of violence during the political unrest in April-May 2010,” Nitirat “wants to put the amnesty as a chapter in the amended charter…”. Nitirat’s Worachet Pakeerut explained:

Why is it to be in the constitution? That’s because an amnesty bill or decree will provide a blanket amnesty, but the proposed amnesty as a constitutional chapter will not cover authorities involved in crackdowns on protests after the Sept 19 coup in 2006 until the last election in 2011…. This [proposal] is unprecedented as it aims to teach a lesson to the authorities. It will be a concrete platform to dismantle the impunity in our society….

This is an important and necessary innovation.

On the proposed amnesty chapter, “a five-member conflict resolution committee would be established and it would have the final say on the amnesty process.”

Predictably, an anonymous “member of the Law Reform Commission (LRC) said introducing national reconciliation laws or amending the constitution to bring about reconciliation could only be achieved when political sentiments were conducive _ and now is not the right time.”

Essentially, the royalist elite will say “not now, not ever” on such a necessary innovation as they reject any proposal that seeks to make Thailand more democratic.

Also in the “not now, not ever” category is a House sub-committee on constitutional change reported at the Bangkok Post. The idea that the principal legal tools of the royalist elite in the Constitutional Court and the Supreme Court’s Criminal Section for Holders of Political Positions should be dissolved is anathema to all royalists.

These two judicial bodies have been shown to be politically-biased and corrupt. In particular, the Constitutional Court has demonstrated a role as the proud defender of the indefensible royalist power structure.  Replacing them with new bodies that are independent would be a remarkable innovation.

Line in the sandFurther suggestions by the sub-committee to do away with other politicized bodies such as the Office of the Ombudsman are sure to bring cries of derision. The idea of  only having elected senators also strikes at the heart of the conservative changes wrought by the military-royalist coalition following the 2006 coup.

However, as with all that is associated with the military junta’s constitution, these courts and unelected bodies are on the wrong side of the line in the sand drawn by the royalist elite that continues to see itself as the rightful ruling class.

The fear is that the royalist rulers will lose power. Their cry will continue to be “Never, ever, not now, not ever.”

Entrapping opponents

7 01 2013

In an earlier post, while we were critical of the Puea Thai Party leadership and the government on constitutional change, we have to agree with party leader Charupong Ruangsuwan when he cautioned party members that “The charter and the referendum law have laid a trap for attempts to amend the charter.”

A classic example of this entrapment process is provided in a report at The Nation. Responding to a red shirt call for the Constitutional Court refused to clarify “whether there is an obligation to hold a national referendum before proceeding with changes to the charter,” the court’s mouthpiece said the court wouldn’t respond (yes, we know, a statement of refusing to respond is a response…).

The spokesman “said the court did not have the authority to make such clarification – it only has the authority to rule which laws violate the Constitution.” In announcing its verdict on the ludicrous claim that changing the constitution was unconstitutional because it was anti-monarchy, the court stated, in an arguably unconstitutional manner, that the 2007 constitution “came from a referendum, … [s]o the public should hold another referendum to decide whether they want a new draft. If the parliament wants to amend it, it can do by each article.”

Leaving aside the rather important fact that the 2007 constitution came from a military junta that had conducted an illegal military coup, the referendum was a democratic sham. The Constitutional Court cares nothing about this because it is protecting the 2006 coup. In addition, as was reported at the time, the “referendum requirement appears nowhere in Article 291 of the current charter, which grants parliament the right to change the constitution.”

Kanin Boonsuwan, a law lecturer at Chulalongkorn University, in favor of rewriting the constitution, stated the “court’s insistence that a nationwide vote is required before rewriting … amounts to a threat against the government and parliament because the judiciary is asserting powers that aren’t granted in the constitution…”.

Know-it-all Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva has said “the public had no doubt about the Constitution Court ruling…”. Yet red shirt leaders want to know if the court demands “a public referendum should be held before Parliament votes on the third reading of a bill on amending the charter – or whether the court banned Parliament from voting in a third reading.”

house of cards fallingBy refusing to comment or clarify, the court is laying a trap for the government. Like other royalists who defend the coup, the 2007 constitution is viewed by the court as a keystone of royalist political power. Clarifying a court position as red shirts demand on it is next to impossible. This is because the court cannot reveal a position that may need to be politically ditched in the battle against the elected government. Keeping all of its cards close to its collective chest gives the court tremendous political flexibility, threatens the government and prevents the house of cards from falling.

Political nonsense and the constitutional referendum

20 12 2012

As PPT has made clear, we think any referendum on constitutional change is unnecessary and, as the junta’s charade in 2007 showed, a referendum can be simply anti-democratic and a political nonsense. That said, the royalists, led by “Democrat” Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva, suddenly changed their tune on a constitutional referendum is revealing. From a well-orchestrated symphony calling for a referendum before any changes could be made to the military junta’s constitution of 2007, the sudden discordance has resulted in a cacophony of shrieking about a referendum being just about the worst thing that could happen. This sudden change of song again reveals the royalist political on democracy.

The degree of royalist manipulation of truth on the proposed referendum is again illustrated in a Bangkok Post op-ed. The sudden outpouring of op-eds from the Post is revealing of a coordinated campaign, bringing together the royalist mainstream media, “Democrat” Party opposition and yellow-hued academics. This op-ed by Kamolwat Praprutitum, an assistant news editor, begins: “Tearing up a constitution is no laughing matter. Without a thorough consultative process, there is a huge risk the charter rewrite efforts will heighten colour-coded conflicts needlessly.”

As PPT has indicated in a recent post, the tearing up is almost always done by the military and royalists. It was, for example, the palace and the military that drove their tanks over the 1997 constitution, grinding it into the dust. It is they who tutored their lackeys in constitution drafting to put the 2007 constitution in place and mounted a wholly repressive and deceitful referendum campaign to put it in place. It is they who established the referendum as a wholly inappropriate procedure.

That the yellow shirted ones will oppose any rewriting of the military’s constitution is already known, and their previous support for a referendum was simply a political ruse and had nothing to do with any notion of democracy.

The op-ed points out that “[n]o sooner did it occur to the government that defying the Constitution Court ruling could spell doom for the party than the politicians in power swung toward supporting the referendum.” Well it was “advice,” but had the effect of being a “ruling” because of the threat to the ruling party and government by the royalists in the court. In efect, the current government is again kowtowing to the demands of the royalists but that is not enough for the royalists. In fact, nothing is enough for the royalists; they just want the government out and their lads back in place. Hence, questions like this one are 5-6 years late:

Will a single question be a sufficient summary of the voters’ mandate? Will a simple “yes” or “no” to the new charter reflect the majority of voters’ true understanding of the meat of the new constitution?

But the question is only relevant now because the royalists want what they want and back then they wanted a junta constitution, and now they want to keep that in place, and not allow the “disloyal” lot to change or amend it. Raising a whole bunch of legal reasons for a referendum being a problem now – finding demon-seed clauses in the junta’s constitution – shows that all the royalist calls for a referendum were simply a nonsense.

Kamolwat then embarks on a royalist call for “consultation” on the constitution because…. well, the elected politicians who campaigned on charter change and won a remarkable majority can’t be trusted and they will attack “pillar sections of the constitution” – read monarchy – and engage in “another vote-buying splurge tilting favourably toward the welfare of a single individual desperate to come home.” Kamolwat puts the “Democrat” Party position. The vote-buying claim is also a nonsense right out of the ultra-royalist playbook.

Kamolwat concludes: “Unless the referendum is free and fair, we might be better off not having it at all. We want to be asked, not bought.” This is a false claim. (Where is the criticism of 2007?) What the royalist lackeys like Kamolwat want is no change to the junta’s constitution because they think these rules, drawn up by them and enforced by them, serve them best.

Updated: Somyos verdict on 23 January

19 12 2012

Many, including Somyos Prueksakasemsuk‘s lawyer, had thought that 19 December would see a verdict in his lese majeste case. In fact, though, with more than 100 people at the court, the verdict was delayed until 23 January 2013.

Those present “included the defendant’s wife and son, representatives from several European embassies, including Denmark and Germany, and the European Commission [and] … [i]nternational and local NGOs such as Freedom House, Human Rights Watch and Union for Civil Liberty…”.Somyos

What they got was “a lengthy explanation of the Constitution Court’s ruling that the Penal Code’s Section 112, known as the lese majeste law, is not contrary to the constitution.” Of course, the law is an affront to several provisions in the junta’s 2007 constitution, but royalist judges produce political rather than legal decisions. The Constitutional Court holds “that the principle of Section 112 of the Penal Code is in line with providing protection to the King, an institution and head of the state of Thailand.” It argues for the protection of the royalist state and ignores or does not rule on numerous other articles in the constitution that are meant to protect free speech and other liberties. Further, it makes its protection of the royalist state clear:

Commission of offences under Section 112 of the Penal Code shall affect the security of the state as the King is an institution the constitution recognises and protects, and is part of the democratic regime of government with the King as the head of state.

It rests this claim on the second paragraph of Section 45 of the constitution which states:

The restriction on liberty under paragraph one [A person shall enjoy the liberty to express his opinion, make speech, write, print, publicise, and make expression by other means] shall not be imposed except by virtue of the law specifically enacted for the purpose of maintaining the security of State, protecting the rights, liberties, dignity, reputation, family or privacy rights of other person[s], maintaining public order or good morals or preventing or halting the deterioration of the mind or health of the public.

Following all of this royalist political squirming, there was unusual dissension:

Attendants moved to calm the public gallery, which erupted noisily after the lengthy explanation, particularly when it was announced the judgement on Mr Somyos would not be delivered right away but delayed until Jan 23, 2013.

Somyos responded by observing that the “lese majeste law remained a problem affecting the whole justice system, and undermined  the integrity of the revered institution of the monarchy.” He then attacked the current government:

“What I feel sorry about is that the parliament and the Yingluck administration are somewhat cowardly. The people-initiated amendment under the banner of the Committee to Campaign for the Amendment of Section 112 is an important move and the way this effort was belittled and stopped is a loss to our society.

“It’s of immeasurable regret that social justice and protection of the institution of the monarchy [through the proposed amendment] cannot be achieved,” said Mr Somyos.

“It’s a pity that Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra does not dare to take the lead in this case. Her cowardice and indecisiveness make her no different to other dictators,” he said.

At the same time, Somyos said he believed he would not be found guilty and sated that “the law [under which] he was charged under is unjust.”

It is worth noting that the delays in this case have caused Somyos to be imprisoned since 30 April 2011, meaning that his verdict will come after 21 months of incarceration that saw his case repeatedly delayed and Somyos chained and dragged around the country for meaningless provincial hearings.

Update: The Nation adds further to the judge’s comments on lese majeste and constitutionality, adding further to our comment that “royalist judges produce political rather than legal decisions.” According to the report, the judge stated the the alleged “reverence” for the king “is a unique characteristic found in Thailand and unlike anywhere else.” The judge is cited as having “further quoted from the Constitution Court’s ruling by adding that violating the lese-majeste law by defaming the monarchy was tantamount to ‘hurting the feelings of Thai people’, thus the harsher penalty compared to defaming an ordinary person was ‘justified’.” These nonsensical claims have nothing to do with law but much to do with politics and the cult of personality, which far from being “unlike anywhere else” is historically rather common.

Updated: Is the 2007 constitution “quasi-democratic”?

18 12 2012

Atiya Achakulwisut has an op-ed in the Bangkok Post that, at least in small part, asks a relevant but implicit question about the proposed constitutional referendum.

In commenting that “[t]he public referendum should … be about whether we want to change this [2007] charter and if so, how we want to go about doing it,” the nub of the stupidity of the 2007 referendum is revealed. That military-organized and backed referendum asked the impossible to answer question: did each voter approve the 309 section constitution or not. The answer could only be yes or no. A voter either agreed with the whole thing or rejected it all. This absurd notion was nothing more than a political exercise in justifying and making finally legal the 2006 military coup. It secondary aim was to put in measures that the junta and its palace and royalist allies thought would keep pro-Thaksin Shinawatra parties out of government.

Royalists have long shouted that a referendum was required if anyone wanted to touch the junta’s constitution. Of course, they are quite wrong. Under the 2007 constitution, changing the constitution requires no such plebiscite. Despite that, the politically-driven, royalist lackey judges at the Constitutional Court sided with the other royalists and agreed that a referendum was necessary.

Remarkably, now that they have their way, the royalists, led by the Democrat Party and Abhisit Vejjajiva, are now in retreat from the idea of a referendum. This is because they have suddenly realized that voters will want the junta’s charter ditched. Abhisit and his lot are obviously shocked that the Puea Thai Party has agreed to hold a referendum. They now realize that Puea Thai can use a referendum to justify any changes to the constitution by a popular vote. In other words, the royalist dolts have painted themselves into a political corner and are looking for a way out.

But back to Atiya’s lament. There were a line that struck us as emblematic, not of an “intellectual dilemma” but a political dilemma for the royalists. She states:

There is no denying the 2007 charter is the embodiment of an intellectual dilemma, and in itself poses a practical challenge. Although conceived by an assembly of drafters appointed by the 2006 coup-makers, the charter was still endorsed by a majority of eligible voters in the first national referendum held in Thailand.

This is exactly the challenge that faces the Democrat Party and all others who oppose the present government. If the junta can claim a mandate for its referendum in 2007, so the Puea Thai government could claim a mandate in 2013. More worrying though is this claim:

Was it a product of military dictatorship? Yes, it was. But was it also the result of a popular vote, enshrined and thus guarded by the sanctity of such a fundamental democratic principle? Yes, it was.

It needs to be pointed out that the military’s referendum was not democratic at all. As we pointed out in a recent post:

Vote No

Pracha Suveeranont, Vote No to Draft Constitution Campaign, 2007, © Pracha Suveeranont

That military junta headed by General Sonthi Boonyaratglin set in place mechanisms to develop its own 2007 charter. The major innovation was a referendum. When approved, the Asian Human Rights Commission described a “heavy-handed undemocratic atmosphere…”, stating that the “… junta … coerced, threatened, bought and cajoled part of the electorate…”. Even the Bangkok Post (1 August 2007) claimed the process had a “facade of being a democratic choice… ”, adding “[t]his is not democracy, this is not the rule of law.”

We could go on about the lack of democracy in this process as opponents were harassed and locked up and empty promises were made by constitution supporters that it could all easily be changed if a new government wanted to. Those promises were political lies (for an academic account, see this PDF from page 126).

The fact is that there is no democratic mandate, and the 2007 constitution is not quasi-democratic. It is simply the royalist elite’s favored basic law.

Update: A reader points out that our interpretation of the Constitutional Court and the referendum is contradicted by this story. We are not convinced that this is so. In the first place, we said “royalist lackey judges at the Constitutional Court sided with the other royalists and agreed that a referendum was necessary.” That is the “advice” in the story. Second, we think it important to also read earlier posts here and here.

Abortive Abhisit

18 12 2012

Back in 2007, as the military promoted its referendum on the constitution designed to rollback reforms hard won following the bloody events of 1992, Democrat Party leader and, at the time, premier presumptive, Abhisit Vejjajiva was all for it (“Abhisit says Democrats [sic] will clean up politics,” Bangkok Post, 22 July 2007).

Bowling over democracy

Bowling over democracy (a Nation photo)

He was strongly supportive of a process that academic Pasuk Phongpaichit (“Pasuk takes aim at the perils of draft charter,” Bangkok Post, 27 July 2007) said would lead to “the country will be controlled by soldiers, the elite and officials, she warned. Thailand will have a ‘managed democracy,’ where soldiers and the elite rule the country.”

It may not have worked out exactly like that, but the elite continues to need this undemocratic constitution that legitimized the 2006 coup. For an accounting of the military and elite efforts to prevent a no vote in 2007, Asia Sentinel is a good place to begin.

Hence it is no surprise that Abhisit is now campaigning against a proposed referendum to change the undemocratic charter. More than that, he and his (un)Democrat(ic) Party are encouraging voters to avoid and abort the referendum. One Party legal adviser says:

eligible voters who oppose the government’s move to rewrite the charter have the right to stage “civil disobedience” by not going to vote, as well as simply voting against it. He said that unlike a general election, when eligible voters have a duty to vote, people have the right to choose whether to vote in a referendum.

Because Abhisit’s abort call may be illegal, he now says: “I did not mean the referendum should be blocked…”. The basic point of Abhisit’s undemocratic position has been clear since 2006: accept coup, repression, military in order to establish elite rule. He has been consistent.

Updated: Tanks, streets and judges II

12 12 2012

[Update: we fixed an important type, now bolded in paragraph 3 below]

This is the second comment PPT has on Voranai Vanijaka at the Bangkok Post and his reflections on 10 December as Constitution Day. The first post is here.

PPT agrees with Voranai that since the “… general election victory on July 3, 2011, one of the … [Puea Thai Party's] top mandates, if not the top mandate, has been to amend Section 291 of the constitution…”. In fact, since the time when royalists and generals, old and new, were telling red shirts and others that they could easily amend the junta’s 2007 constitution if elected as government, pro-Thaksin Shinawatra governments have had this mandate.

He is also right that any move to do what was promised by the elite that drafted the constitution and what has been mandated by elections, “has ignited controversy.” The reason for this, as he correctly observes, is that there:

have been accusations from the opposition Democrat Party that the move is part of a covert plan by the ruling government to overthrow the monarchy and part of a plot to pave the way for the exoneration and return of Thaksin Shinawatra. The former is preposterous and has been dismissed by the Constitution Court [PPT: not that anyone can take this kangaroo court seriously], while the latter is arguably the top priority of the ruling government.

Apparently Voranai does take this political court seriously when he demands that a public referendum be held, which is something not associated with constitutional change in the existing constitution, although Section 165 allows the Council of Ministers to call a referendum on any issue; it does not demand a referendum. Voranai chastises the Puea Thai Party for not accepting this political demand by the Constitutional Court. Sounding like a member of the Democrat Party, he blames Thaksin for this because “Thaksin wants to come back sooner rather than later. Who wouldn’t?” In fact, since then, Thaksin has since called for a referendum and so has cabinet, as the Thaksin strategy of appeasement continues.

In then noting the obstacles to the Puea Thai Party pushing ahead sans referendum – now a dead issue – Voranai sees three: “First, tanks in the streets; second, protesters in the streets; third, Constitution Court judges on the bench.” He discusses each element of the royalist opposition; the opposition is not dead on this issue, even if a referendum is held. He asserts:

Regarding tanks in the streets, the verdict is very noncommittal; the scenario is always possible, but unlikely. This is no longer 2006 and if we are to believe news reports, Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has done a good job of pacifying the generals. Also, the dangerous consequences of tanks in the streets must be seriously considered. But then again, this is Thailand.

He then moves to street protests and provides strategic advice to potential protesters: “If we take the rally staged last month by the Pitak Siam group led by General Boonlert Kaewprasit as the dress rehearsal, then the government is in a good position.” The reason is that General Boonlert was a silly old duffer and Voranai demands a better movement. He says that opposing the elected government means “putting protesters in the streets to affect the outcome [and] will require leadership, organisation and resolve.” In his call for opposition on the streets he adds: “In this case, the verdict is that it doesn’t matter if every single Thai except for the 15 millions who voted Pheu Thai are anti-Thaksin. Without leadership, organisation and resolve, all is for naught.” The best hope is “judges on the bench,” but Voranai isn’t sure that even the royalist judges have the necessary backbone. Even a “rallying cry to protect the monarchy might lack fervour when there isn’t actually a force trying to overthrow the institution.” Maybe they can create one, again. The only likely protest banner seems to be in Voranai’s hopeful eyes:

… at the mention of the name “Thaksin” half the country is liable to go into an epileptic fit and the possibility of him returning in triumph could be enough to put plenty of protesters in the streets. Pitak Siam at least showed that a number of people are willing to march; it’s just a matter of leadership, organisation and resolve.

This begs a question: Do the ordinary citizens who make up the anti-Thaksin movement have the stomach and the resolve that was demonstrated by their crimson-hued counterparts during April and May of 2010?

It sounds like a call to action and a demand for a yellow shirt leadership like that of PAD in 2008, with the political backbone for another long fight to overthrow another elected government.

In other words, like royalists of the past, Voranai is apparently ignoring the constitution, seeing it as little more than a tool for royalists. His claims of fickleness about the constitution in Thailand are central to his rallying call for opposing an elected government engaged in parliamentary activities mandated by an election that are legal and constitutional. None of that has ever bothered the royalists because popular mandate, law, constitution and elections are all rejected as legitimate whenever the mood takes them.


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