Korn, Rule of Law, and Democracy

8 03 2010

Thanks to Bangkok Pundit, PPT was alerted to a new Thai-language Facebook post by Finance Minister Korn Chatikavanij (6 March 2010). In this post, Korn expresses some surprise that his earlier post on the Thaksin Shinawatra assets case verdict, which PPT commented on here, caused so much of a fuss. He claims to have been misunderstood and to have been misrepresented by mischievous opponents. We’ll come back to this.

PPT had a long comment on that earlier post because it contained some revealing statements by the elite English-educated minister who had the Facebook post published by the Bangkok Post. We noted that Korn’s most significant issue was in this question: “The question I would like to raise is, if the coup did not happen in 2006 and the Assets Scrutiny Committee (ASC) had not existed, would we see justice being served in this case?” He restates it as: “if there had not been a coup, would justice have prevailed?” And then he thinks a bit more: “why can’t Thai society … achieve justice without having to rely on coup-makers initiating the process? Does this mean that sometimes ‘undemocratic’ actors place more emphasis on truth and justice than democratic ones?”

We noted that Korn didn’t explicitly answer the questions although we considered it clear that he is a coup supporter and believes that justice has been brought by the 2006 military coup. Of course, the question is hypothetical as the coup prevented any further attempts to deal with Thaksin’s alleged corruption under the 1997 Constitution.

PPT also pointed to Korn’s effusive PAD-like position where he attempts to consider whether the poor have the time or energy to think about justice. He said: “Perhaps, therefore, only the wealthy have the time and inclination to ponder on matters such as justice while the poor, who have to struggle to feed their families, do not have that luxury. And when the majority is made up of poor people and the majority voice is what counts in a democracy, the resounding answer is seemingly ‘We don’t care’.” We noted that Korn’s view was elitist.

In now claiming to have been misunderstood or misrepresented, Korn states that he did not say that he supported the coup in September 2006. He claims that he was just asking a question of Thais: would we have had “justice” if we had not had the coup? In our post, we acknowledged that Korn didn’t say outright that he had supported the coup. PPT stated that his support for the coup was implicit in what he said.

In his new post, Korn now takes the high ground, claiming a concern for rule of law and true democracy. So we decided to have a quick look at Korn’s track record on supporting rule of law and democracy by surveying the English-language press since the 2006 coup. We don’t claim to have found everything, but we have enough to suggest that Korn is dissembling.

Support for a coup and military intervention: True, back at the time of the coup, Korn didn’t jump up and down in public proclaiming ecstasy at the outcome. At the same time, he did not speak against the military’s destruction of the constitution, parliament or the illegality of the military’s putsch. And he did provide some succour for the generals. News.com.au (22 September 2006) states that when the coup leaders decided to ban the activities of political parties and forbade the formation of political parties, speaking for the Democrat Party, Korn stated: “We respect the council’s [i.e. the junta’s] need for stability and we will abide by it…”. Respect in a word full of meaning. And Korn meant it, for he immediately canceled an interview with TIME magazine (25 September 2006) and “declined to comment on the nation’s political future.”

When the junta decided to appoint a prime minister, Korn was reported in Mainichi Daily News (29 September 2006) as speaking highly of Privy Councilor and retired general Surayud Chulanont. Korn even said that appointing a former general should not give the impression that the military was merely transferring power to one of its cronies.” He said that “would be neither true nor relevant.”

The record is that at the time of the coup, Korn did not oppose it and spoke supportively of the military junta, its restrictive announcements and supported that appointment of a puppet government led by a former general. It is important to recall that he also did this as a politician speaking for the Democrat Party. Maybe he just forgot the “democrat” bit of the name.

A year later, Korn rejected those assertions that the Democrat Party had accommodated the coup group. In The Irrawaddy (21 December 2007) he is cited: “Everyone had faith that nobody would have the power to renege on the public promises made by military at the time [of the coup, to have elections].He added that not being “more forceful against the military, [had] … shown the world that the Thai way of solving problems, avoiding confrontation, often yields the best results.” At the time, the Democrat Party was hoping for the election victory that the military hoped to hand them, especially after bludgeoning through the 2007 Constitution that was, in part, meant to ensure that victory.

Much later, at the demise of the Samak government, Korn appeared to endorse military intervention when he stated: “So much for democracy providing a safety valve. So, while a full-blown coup is something everyone wants to avoid, it would appear that an unspoken threat of a coup was necessary for the right decision to have been made by politicians” (Bangkok Post, 23 September 2008).

All of this means that Korn can hardly claim to have been anything other than supportive of the military coup. How about rule of law?

Rule of law: Most of the comments PPT found had to do with the People’s Alliance for Democracy. In the Asia Times Online (29 August 2008), Korn claimed that treason charges “filed against the PAD leadership were ‘overly harsh and unnecessarily provocative’.” About a week later he wrote in the Bangkok Post (9 September 2008): Let’s be clear – I am a PAD sympathiser…. No point shying away from the obvious – after all, it is a wellknown fact that one of the PAD leaders, even if he is acting on an individual basis, is a Democrat MP. Many other key speakers were our candidates in the recent general elections. Almost all of the tens of thousands of the attending public are Democrat voters. Most importantly, the PAD and their supporters make similar arguments with us….

All of this at a time when Korn himself admits that PAD had engaged in illegal acts, including breaking into and occupying Government House. He says: “Did everything change as a result of the illicit acts? Not for me.” Why? “[L]like it or not, the Democrats could not on our own have resisted the PPP or the government from abusing their powers in the seven months of their rule. I think that without our parallel efforts, it is likely that the Constitution would by now have been amended and protection given to both Thaksin and PPP itself. He adds: “I was saddened by the PAD decision to cross the legal line. Yet I understood it from the perspective of strategy.

It is clear that Korn supported all of PAD’s actions, including their many illegal acts.

Democracy: On democracy as rule by the majority, Korn is PAD-like: “I am not one to believe that fairness always means the view of the majority – I have seen the majority at work in Parliament over the past four years to know how flawed they can be. I am thus apt to believe that while the majority view should be given first priority, a good system requires other mechanisms to provide the check and balance necessary. This is why I was always a supporter of the part-elected, part-selected Upper House – there is no reason why we should have the Upper and Lower Houses filled with people of the same DNA. The question today, however, is whether we should go further – should the Lower House also be partly selected and, if not, should its powers be curbed? I can tell you as an elected MP that it is humbling to have to acknowledge that the questions have validity. In my opinion, if we are to seek to amend the Constitution, these are the issues we should be focusing on…” (Bangkok Post, 23 September 2008).

The Asia Times Online (8 October 2008) reports that “Kasit Piromya, currently a Democrat party shadow cabinet minister, acted as a de facto PAD spokesman at a foreign press event on September 30. He was joined on the panel by Democrat deputy party leader Korn Chatikavanij, who expressed his personal support for the PAD and its call for political reforms, including a move towards more appointed representatives.

These comments show Korn, a member of the elite and a PAD supporter, throwing his weight behind decidedly undemocratic and highly conservative forms of representation.

And in case you wondered if Korn was just taking political cover on this recent Facebook-based debate regarding his support for the 2006 coup, recall that when the army and palace brokered a deal with Newin Chidchob to get Abhisit Vejjajiva in the prime minister’s seat, the Asia Times Online (16 December 2008) reported: “Newin’s association with the Democrats represents the latest blotch on the conservative party’s self-promoted good governance image and points to possible political infighting ahead. In an August interview with Asia Times Online, Democrat party deputy leader Korn Chatikavanij saidhis party would never form an alliance with the rough-and-tumble Newin to establish a Democrat-led government.

Korn’s track record on limited democracy, partisan rule of law and his support for military intervention is about as clear as it gets in Thailand’s political maelstrom.


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26 08 2012
Still promoting elite double standards « Political Prisoners of Thailand

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