A meeting was held at the royalist-dominated Chulalongkorn University that claimed to be on the topic “Why Society Must Listen to the Little People,” and is reported in the Bangkok Post (25 March 2010). While the meeting did include two red shirt representatives, PPT wants to look at the yellow-shirted opinion.
The Post summarizes the meeting as saying that red shirt “demands for a dissolution of the lower house of parliament will achieve very little for democracy until politicians can be kept in check and made accountable for their actions…”.
Niran Pithakwatchara from the government’s tame National Human Rights Commission, claimed that “true democracy had never existed in Thailand and people on the lower rungs of society were mere pawns in the politicians’ games.” Sonthi Limthongkul used this same line repeatedly.
So don’t get rid of the government says Niran, but exercise the “rights” provided by the military’s 2007 Constitution to “keep tabs on the holders of power.” Niran calls for “civic networks” to watch the politicians. But who might watch the military, the privy council and the monarch and family? Are politicians reflective of the structure of their society or are they the only problem? Niran goes on to claim that the red shirts should somehow fight for equal benefits from state policies. In fact, though, he sees them as fighting for Thaksin Shinawatra. His comments show why PPT refers to the NHRC being the government’s tame body. Currently it seems to fight for no one.
Senator Rosana Tositrakul, a staunch promoter and defender of the People’s Alliance for Democracy, decided to explain that “a dissolution of the House or a general election would not dispense with the system of the bureaucratic elite, or amataya, which is a key platform of the UDD movement.” As PAD intellectuals have argued, the problem for the senator is that politicians are a part of the so-called patronage system. The “people elect MPs who then use their popular support to negotiate seats in the cabinet.” She’s right on this.
Bringing back that system was critical for those who drafted the military’s 2007 Constitution that the senator has cheered. Like many others, she asks what the red shirts want after a dissolution. PPT’s understanding is that the red shirts have called for a dissolution and then an election. Presumably each party would promulgate an electoral platform. We suspect that is not what the senator wants.
Surichai Wankaew, a political scientist at Chulalongkorn who worked for years to develop grassroots politics and then jumped into the military junta’s appointed parliament when the chance came, noted that the “highly partisan” political divide allows the “urban population to dictate national priorities.”
Maybe the professor has lost his spectacles, for this domination has been in place for a very long time and hardly seems the product of recent “partisanship.” Apparently the professor thinks the House” should not be dissolved until after the people have set conditions to improve the political system, which the holders of power must adopt.” This seems to involve some kind of PAD-like notion of politics.
It is as if politicians are the only cause of political problems in Thailand. This is a myopia that seems to prevent these yellow-shirted politicians – each has been or is a politician – from getting beyond slogans about “the people,” and recall that they are the ones saying that it is the red shirts who are all about slogans and lacking substance. Each also has a claim to grassroots activism. It seems, though, that the grassroots has abandoned them.