Thongchai: Thailand needs an election

18 05 2014

Professor Thongchai Winichakul writes for Al Jazeera on Thailand’s ongoing crisis and the crying need for an election as the path out and forward:

On May 7, the Constitutional Court removed Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and a number of her Cabinet ministers from office. This judicial coup was followed by a decision from the National Anti-Corruption Commission, which indicted Yingluck for dereliction of duty in handling a controversial rice-subsidy program. Despite their judicial semblance, both rulings were carried out without any due process of law. They call into question the credibility and impartiality of Thailand’s judicial system in the eyes of the majority of the Thai public.

… The royalists’ relentless scheme to usurp power by undermining the rule of law now threatens to degenerate into civil war.

… Thailand’s onetime budding electoral democracy is now increasingly besieged. A would-be royalist government might attempt to overrule the dissenting public using a combination of force, fear and coercion.

… The royalist conservatives, who are behind the anti-democracy protests, have lost every election since 2000. They are declining in popularity and political legitimacy. However, they continue to dominate the judiciary, the military, the state bureaucracy and universities.

The Senate … is a bastion of the royalist elite. Half of its members are unelected but selected by the judiciary and appointed by the king….

A free, fair and democratic election is the only way out of the current turmoil.

[T]he PDRC and Election Commission continue to obstruct the process in order to delay the vote. Meanwhile, as tensions between the two sides mount, the situation threatens to spiral out of control.

The royalists’ reliance on the military or fear of the draconian lese majesty law … will likely backfire…. Resentment with the royalists and the monarchy has evidently increased on social media, and the number of charges under the lese majesty law spiked in the past few years. The royalists hope the appointment of an unelected prime minister by the king would quell possible unrest. But doing so would validate a widespread belief that the palace was in fact behind the ongoing scheme all along. This puts the future of the monarchy in jeopardy. Since the late 1970s, the king’s charisma has been the linchpin of stability in Thailand. But overreach by the royalists has brought the monarchy’s legitimacy into question. Not long ago, it was unimaginable to even ponder the demise of Thailand’s monarchy. If it comes to an end, the royalist conservatives will only have themselves to blame.

A free, fair and democratic election is the only way out of the current turmoil.

Hard-hitting but full of truths that the royalists fear, ignore and obscure.


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