[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.