Constitutionalism and neo-feudalism

3 09 2019

Atiya Achakulwisut has an op-ed of note with the Bangkok Post. It deserves wide consideration because she raises uncomfortable issues that have been avoided by the mainstream media when discussing Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha’s un/anti-constitutional oath given before the king, as premier and for his ministers. We will mention just a couple of points here, as teasers to encourage readers to read her op-ed if they haven’t done so already.

She comments that Gen Prayuth’s omission of a sentence pledging to uphold the constitution in his oath began “as a gaffe but has taken on a mysterious tone as no explanation has been given.” We don’t think it a “gaffe, but it is the “mystery” that warrants attention. Making the mystery far less mysterious, last week, the king’s support for the premier and his ministers in an ostentatious ceremony. As usual, the king was cavorting in Europe, meaning the ministers bowed and prostrated before a photo of the monarch. But the message from the king was crystal clear, even if Atiya reckons the event added to the “mystery.”

For the feudal lord

She then raises an important issue:

At this point, it is not clear if the failure to utter the complete oath constitutes a breach of the constitution. However, the Office of the Ombudsman believes this to be the case and forwarded a complaint to the Constitution Court.

Moreover, it’s also not clear what implications the incomplete oath will have on the government’s policies and actions if the oath slip is found to be against the constitution.

And then Atiya gets to the point:

It also does not help that the oath-taking controversy concerns the monarchy and a willingness on the PM’s part to abide by the constitution. Both are sensitive issues in Thai politics.

… Although the opposition is set to launch a general debate against the premier about the oath gaffe on Friday, the government is suggesting that the session be conducted behind closed doors as it concerns the monarchy.

She reinforces this point by pointing to an online-arranged effort by some activists to challenge/know “whether it’s against the law not to stand during the royal anthem in theatres…”.

It seems that a backlash against rising neo-feudalism may (re-) emerge.


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