What is that statement by a dead philosopher? George Santayana, reflecting his times and his political conservatism, stated:
Progress, far from consisting in change, depends on retentiveness. When change is absolute there remains no being to improve and no direction is set for possible improvement: and when experience is not retained, as among savages, infancy is perpetual. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
Marx put it this way when referring respectively to Napoleon I and to his nephew Louis Napoleon in The Eighteenth Brumaire:
Hegel remarks somewhere that all great world-historic facts and personages appear, so to speak, twice. He forgot to add: the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.
In Bangkok, it is arguably a little different as we see a sorry repeat of past farces as tragedy, as if The Dictator and his flunkies have no memory of their own past.
The appointment of Meechai Ruchupan to chair the new 21-member Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC) is not a surprise for anyone. This appointment of a loyal servant of the military was predicted as soon as The Dictator got rid of Bowornsak Uwanno and his lot when the military dictatorship became fearful of a referendum and elections.
Meechai has worked on several constitutions, for the military, in the past. The Nation has quite a matter-of-fact account of Meechai’s career as a conservative, royalist servant of various military regimes.
Meechai, who is a member of the junta (NCPO), has faithfully served royalist and military regimes, being a in various legal and political positionsto prime ministers Sanya Dharmasakti, Kukrit Pramoj, Seni Pramoj, Thanin Kraivichien, General Kriangsak Chamanan, General Prem Tinsulanonda, Chatichai Choonhavan and Anand Panyarachun.
Chatichai was ousted by a coup led by General Suchinda Kraprayoon and his National Peace-Keeping Council (NPKC) in 1991 and Meechai slithered into the acting premier’s position before Anand was hoisted into the top job by the military, arguably on royal advice.
In 1991, the military had Meechai appointed the leader of a charter-drafting committee, leading to the 1991 Constitution, which eventually lead to the May 1992 massacre. In drafting that constitution, Meechai simply plagiarized bits of a charter that had been used earlier by a military regime.
This, when the Bangkok Post reports that “[g]ood elements from past constitutions will be collected to include in the new constitution,” it is quite possible that “good” simply means the reproduction of military desires for control. That it is claimed that “a first draft is expected in January which would then be presented to the public for feedback” is no cause for celebration. Meechai has yet to accept the idea of public consultation, With it or not, we expect Meechai to produce royalist rules that suit the current junta; that’s his track record.
The Dictator, General Prayuth has already told Meechai what he wants. Meechai denies this, but the general has stated it as a fact.
Chaturon Chaisaeng is right to point out that “the new CDC is made up of several legal experts, its weakness is that none of its members have had experience in drawing up constitutions that uphold the principles of democracy.”
Prachatai reports that “[p]ro-democracy activists” have already “rallied in front of the parliament to protest against the new batch of constitutional drafters hand-picked by the junta.”