Is Abhisit serious?

11 10 2009

When PPT posted this story, we were giving attention to corruption allegations. The headline was “Is Abhisit serious about graft?” In this updated post, we extend this story to include the premier’s comments on constitutional amendment and have changed the headline to the simpler “Is Abhisit serious?”

Corruption allegations: Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva always knew that the graft allegations about the the Ministry of Public Health’s procurements as part of the “Strengthening Thailand” (“Thai Khemkaeng”) stimulus spending was going to be tougher to deal with than those regarding the Office for Sufficiency Economy Community projects. As PPT has pointed out, the MOPH allegations came from the Rural Doctors Society, a group that has considerable respect. It might even be seen as a Democrat Party ally.

He has also realized, more than 3 weeks after the allegations were made, that the fallout from these allegations of corruption in the 86 billion baht project in a ministry headed by a Democratic Party minister is potentially very damaging. This probably explains why the premier has come out to explain that his government is serious about the graft claims (Bangkok Post, 12 October 2009: “Graft inquiry shows we’re serious – PM”)

Attempting to turn a negative into a positive, Abhisit lamely says that the government’s investigations of “alleged irregularities under the economic stimulus package at the Public Health Ministry would show how determined the government is in fighting corruption…”. He added: “I want to prove to the people that my government is determined to make state projects corruption-free…”.

Meanwhile, MOPH minister Witthaya Kaewparadai has vowed to “push ahead with the scheme.”

PPT would find Abhisit’s claims more convincing if he’d adopted a similar attitude to the corruption and nepotism in the Office for Sufficiency Economy Community projects. He seems to have buried that investigation. We wonder, too, if the allegations regarding similar issues in the Ministry of Education will be investigated? If he is to be taken seriously, Abhisit needs to show that he is prepared to deal with all difficult allegations.

Constitutional amendment: Prime Minister Abhisit has been conducting an odd campaign on constitutional amendment, appearing to be for it but engaging in considerable foot-dragging. The Bangkok Post (12 October 2009: “PM goes cool on charter change”) follows up on earlier reports that the PM was backing away from amendment. Now Abhisit is reported to have said that amendment may be unnecessary.

This is no surprise. PPT does not consider Abhsit to have ever been serious about meaningful change to the military’s 2007 constitution. There are several reasons for skepticism.

First, in the Bangkok Post of 16 August 2007, before it went to a referendum, Abhisit stated that his party accepted the new constitution. He is reported to have said that the draft was acceptable: “because it wanted the country to move ahead. Accepting the draft constitution would given some sense of political stability with a timeframe set out for issuing organic laws, he said. The party could not predict which constitution would be picked if the draft was rejected. Mr Abhisit said the draft and the 1997 constitution did not differ much from each other as both emphasised people’s rights and freedoms, and checks and balance mechanisms. They did differ regarding the origins of cabinet members and MPs. However, the draft was not as flawed as some people feared.”

Second, Abhisit has been lukewarm on the proposed amendments all along, seeking ways to delay an election for as long as possible. Even if the opposition agreed and amendments were accepted, the process of change was likely to take 9 months.

When opposition emerged, he immediately returned to his 2007 position, stating that the 2007 constitution is satisfactory. His reason: if enough parties disagree with the changes, leave it alone. He said: “If the PAD (People’s Alliance for Democracy) and the opposition disagree with it, why should it continue?” He’s known that PAD were opposed from the beginning.

He also said that ” the 1997 charter was problematic, leading to the enactment of the 2007 charter.” Yes, forget all that military coup stuff and the fact that the military and its friends in the palace wrote a new version.

Abhisit is not serious about constitutional change.



3 responses

29 12 2009
รัฐบาลเกรดเฟ้อ ตอน ๒ « Liberal Thai

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3 07 2012
Democrat Party MP: Parliamentary control worse than a coup « Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] that saw each and every one of the eight advisers resign. The scandal involved an 86 billion baht project, and it took Witthaya several weeks to […]

3 07 2012
Democrat Party MP: Parliamentary control worse than a coup « Political Prisoners of Thailand

[…] that saw each and every one of the eight advisers resign. The scandal involved an 86 billion baht project, and it took Witthaya several weeks to […]

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