“Liberal” royalists serve hard line royalists

19 06 2010

PPT was not surprised by the announcement, reported in The Nation, that Prawase Wasi and Anand Punyarachun would lead a national reform effort involving “civil society.”

Describing Anand as a former prime minister  and Prawase as a social critic, they are to create “a mechanism that could help ease the problem of social inequality.” The Nation reports that “Anand will head a committee responsible for mapping out strategies for social reform, while Prawase will head a reform council and sit on the Anand panel…”.

Why these two? The Nation refers to both as “respected figures.” The claim is that when the two met with Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, they were “informed of their nominations by civil society to head the reform.”It is unclear what “civil society” means in this context – unless it is the yellow-shirted NGOs supporting PAD and the current regime – and the process involved seems opaque.

In fact, they are chosen for their image as “reformers” and their proximity to the palace and royalists.

Anand was twice appointed prime minister and has never faced an election for any public office, so the tradition of appointment for him continues.Both men are sometimes conceived of as “liberal royalists” because of their role in getting the 1997 Constitution accepted over considerable royalist and conservative opposition. That charter remained elite-oriented, but was arguably the most “liberal” of Thailand’s constitutions.

That said, since the 2006 coup, neither man has been particularly “liberal.” In fact, Anand has a record of conservative commentary on politics, participation – he has repeatedly denigrated voting – and neither has taken any noticeable liberal position on human rights or opposed deepening repression and censorship since the coup – which both apparently supported (indeed, Anand supported it and the current regime with considerable gusto).

Hence, what Abhisit is doing is appointing two people who he hopes retain “respect” in Thailand – PPT thinks his guess and that of the palace on this may be wrong – and who retain a smidgen of international credibility. The “soft” royalists are meant to “save” the “image” of the hard line,military-backed regime, just as Anand did for the military regime in 1991-2.

The two met with Abhisit – their preferred premier and favorite son – for e 90-minute meeting, and immediately called a press conference to discuss their new mission. And Anand immediately began with the first act of dissembling: “This is not a government project, but it is in line with government plans for national reconciliation…”.

Anand says: “Civil society will create a mechanism to be implemented by the government. This mechanism will be free from government domination or influence; otherwise, it would fail to win the public trust. The prime minister understands this principle and did not protest it.” This is actually pretty clear. Trusted royalists are being asked to come up with a “mechanism” that is seen to be non-government when, in fact, it will be window-dressing a repressive and murderous regime.

Prawase said the project “combines social and intellectual forces” – read this to include a swathe of yellow-shirted academics and self-anointed intellectuals who regularly prostitute themselves to repressive forces in Thailand.

Contradicting Anand, Prawase says: “This reform committee has nothing to do with the national reconciliation plan.” He argues that reform is the key, not reconciliation…”. But PPT doubts that any reform that challenges the power of the royalist ruling classes is possible. Look for half-measures, window-dressing and verbage from yet another elite-dominated political reform project. Recall the wonderful piece of elite nonsense in the 1997 Constitution that barred members of parliament who didn’t have a university degree and the way that workers were prevented from voting through a rejection of absentee voting.

Expect talk of “reform” and “social justice” says Prawase, adding that this “would lead to national unity and a sense of patriotism.” Immediately the process is compromised because patriotism for the ruling class means nation, religion and monarchy.

To make the point that this is to be royalist window dressing masquerading as “reform,” the two claim that: “In four months, there may be measures to help reduce social inequality. But some complicated issues require a longer time, such as reforming the justice system, because it involves many agencies, such as the police…”.


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