A European perspective I

15 03 2016

Readers may find an article at EurActiv.com of interest. EurActive, supported by several businesses and business associations, claims to be “the leading online media dedicated to EU policies, providing free in-depth information to the Community of EU Actors.

The quite long article with a couple of embedded videos begins with the kerfuffle over the invitation by the “chairs of the European Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs, and the head of its ASEAN delegation, issued an invitation to deposed Thai Prime Minister, Yingluck Shinawatra, to come to Brussels to address MEPs on the state of democracy in her country.” It observes that Yingluck “never came. She is under a form of house arrest in Bangkok, awaiting trial on a corruption case for a rice subsidy scheme that her allies insist is politically motivated.” And adds:

the row – with Elmar Brock and Dr Werner Langen – issuing a joint complaint stating their “surprise and deep disappointment[…] with the decision of the Thai authorities to block her appearance in an open debate in the European Parliament” is a sign of how low EU-Thai relations have sunk since the military coup of May 2014.

At that point, the EU was poised to sign a Free Trade Agreement with Thailand. That is now indefinitely suspended, whilst the Commission ponders a full ban on Thai fish imports to Europe – an industry worth some $3bln a year, and potential body blow to the Thai economy.

The article complains of human rights abuses and delayed democratic revival: “human rights abuses and clampdowns on press freedoms have risen alarmingly under the junta, prompting condemnation from MEPs and rights groups…. And the junta’s promised deadlines for a return to democracy keep slipping.”

There’s then a long set of quotes on the constitution drafting process from Professor Peter Leyland, an author of The Constitutional System of Thailand: A Contextual Analysis, worth setting out in full:

“Personally, I have very little faith in the constitutional process.

“I’m  convinced the draft is not going to count for anything….it’s all being manipulated for their convenience.

“I think they [the junta] are hoping they can string people along. They are calculating that as long as they are promising some kind of referendum on the constitution, that states like the US and Britain and so on will give the benefit of doubt to the regime.

“I think from an international point of view, that’s what their calculation is.

“The big uncertainty at the moment is the state of the king, and the succession – and politics is kind of on hold. Because any kind of free speech is banned.”

“One of the things they [the junta] are desperately trying to do is the old Establishment – which the military represents – is living in a state of denial that politics in Thailand has permanently changed.

“Although it’s true to say that the cult of the individual counts for a lot, in terms of how Thai politics works, it’s also true to say that things have changed because expectations have changed, because there has been the ‘Thaksin [Shinawatra] experience’ as it were, where politics has delivered.

“And they want to turn the clock back. But it won’t turn back. This is the thing they don’t understand.

The article returns to succession and the military junta’s monopolization of power:

The consensus among all diplomats, academics and NGOs spoken to by EurActiv is that the junta will at least hold on to power until King Bhumibol Adulyadej – now 88 and after 70 years on the throne, the world’s longest-serving head of state – passes away.

Professor Leyland calls that “the big imponderable”. Very few Thais have any memory of life before King Bhumibol – who is protected by some of the world’s most repressive ‘lese-majeste’ laws, making it an offence to “injure the dignity” of the monarch.

His son and heir apparent, … Vajiralongkorn, is rumoured to have led more of a playboy existence before returning to Thailand, and is held in less esteem than his father.

Professor Leyland says, “I think the worst-case scenario , that we’re all braced for, is the death of the king, and whether the crown prince is able to succeed, and how that’s handled – and nobody knows. That’s the big imponderable. From what I can gather the king remains extremely frail, and he could die at any moment.”

We are not really sure why the death of the king is a worst-case scenario. He will die, sooner rather than later. For the military junta, the death of the king would solve their problem of how to hold on to power. In that sense, for the military junta, the king’s death would be best-case scenario.


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19 03 2016
A European perspective II | Political Prisoners of Thailand

[…] A few days ago we posted on an article on EU-Thailand relations after the coup. What we neglected to state then was that EurActiv.com has a series of articles on Thailand. Well worth reading. […]

19 03 2016
A European perspective II | Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] A few days ago we posted on an article on EU-Thailand relations after the coup. What we neglected to state then was that EurActiv.com has a series of articles on Thailand. Well worth reading. […]