The unmentionable is mentioned

5 05 2011

A report in the Bangkok Post on the attempt to silence political parties on the monarchy in electioneering raises several questions.

This idea, first raised by Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and quickly taken up by the Election Commission (EC) who now say the virtual ban was its idea – which may be followed by a regulation – is based on the fatuous notion that the monarchy has nothing to do with politics.

In fact, as PPT has noted in an earlier post, the gagging appears to be one-sided, as the military continues its hard line stance, attacking red shirts and the Puea Thai Party as republicans, hoping that this provides a political advantage for the royalist Democrat Party should an election be called.

This is what we said in that post: “Making a regulation that prohibits politicians even mentioning the monarchy would be a huge expansion of the lese majeste repression that is already in place. PPT can only imagine that claims that a politician spoke of the monarchy would be subject to closed door hearings, with the statements not detailed (as repeating the statement might constitute lese majeste), and electoral red cards being issued against (mostly) opposition politicians. What a boon for the Democrat Party and their allies!”

The report in the Post begins by noting that :[n]early all of Thailand’s 55 political parties have signed an agreement to refrain from exploiting the monarchy to boost their popularity when campaigning in the next general election, expected to take place in June.” PPT assumes that the 3 parties that haven’t signed up are on holidays or risking charges by their failure to sign up to the monarchist contract.

In fact, while the EC claims that it wants to keep the monarchy out of politics, its action just makes the monarchy more central. Abhisit says he wants a ban on references to the monarchy, and it is easy to imagine such a ban being used against Puea Thai poll victors in yet another intervention to cripple pro-Thaksin Shinawatra political parties.

Other party leaders are not so sure about the ban. For example, “Chart Thai Pattana Party leader Chumpol Silpa-archa said references honouring the royalty in context should still be allowed. He said the constitution stated that all Thais had a duty to honour the royal institution.” Even the EC seems to court exceptions, stating: “individual parties’ written policy statements about the monarchy would not pose a problem so long as they were not repeated by politicians while campaigning for votes.” This supports the coalition parties and especially the Bhum Jai Thai Party.

At the same time, the same 52 parties were asked to sign up to an agreement that they will “respect the results of the election.” PPT is tempted to add this “promise” to our series on fixing the election. But then such a promise is largely irrelevant.

It has not really been political parties that have been the issue in disrespecting results. Sure, the perennial losers – the Democrat Party – boycotted the April 2006 election and have complained about Thaksin parties and candidates, but it is other groups that have repeatedly overthrown election results. The military by coup, the palace through its continual interventions (think Privy Council President General Prem Tinsulanonda in early 2006, the April 2006 direction to judges on that election, and so on), the People’s Alliance for Democracy and royalists who demonstrate and oppose the whole idea of elections, and scheming business people.


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5 05 2011
Campaigning for the monarchy | Political Prisoners in Thailand

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