When you are a military dictatorship attempting to fix the rules of the political game so that your bosses and allies in the anti-democrats can’t be displaced, how do you do it?
PPT read with considerable interest a story at The Nation which suggests one attempt being made by the puppets laboring for the military dictatorship. Thawilwadee Bureekul is the chairwoman of a subcommittee of the puppet Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC) that has been told to gather public opinions and encourage public participation.
The military junta knows this is a two-edged political sword. If there is no semblance of public participation or support for its constitution, the junta’s coup is then in question and Thailand rolls down the steep slope to military-backed fascism. If it does try to manage some elements of public participation or support for its constitution, then it risks unleashing all the “unruly” politicians and activists who will try to take over bits of the process and will push their political agendas. The interesting point is that many of its anti-democrat supporters do feel that the military should listen to them. After all, they did prepare the road to the coup.
The Nation report tells us that Thawilwadee has acknowledged this, stating that “[a]ll groups of people are welcome to provide input for the new charter draft to ensure it will be acceptable to the public, but they should be aware that none will get everything they want…”.
She adds: “when the charter is finished, it must be acceptable to the people.” Exactly how the supposed acceptability is to be determined is unstated. Last time, the 2006 coup leaders accepted the dopey idea of a yes/no referendum on the long and detailed 2007 constitution.
Thawilwadee described “five important stages for her work in the charter, and these would start very soon.” She sees the processes as “creating mechanisms of public participation, also preparing the public to propose ideas of what should be inserted in the new constitution…”.
She admitted that “the process was still in the early stage,” and that her subcommittee had yet to “create an opportunity for people to propose ideas to the CDC.” She explained, however, that in the first phase, there will be “[f]orums to gather opinions” and that these begin “next month and run until September …”. These so-called public fora “will include meetings with relevant agencies such as the National Reform Council (NRC)…”.
PPT isn’t sure if this is public meetings with the puppet NRC or whether the “public” includes that junta-picked and unrepresentative body.
The second phase is said to be a process “to inform the public, to provide them with information and help them understand the process of the subcommittee’s work…”. Perhaps that might be a better first process, but, heck, it is probably all about junta propaganda. She says the subcommittee is training “facilitators” to ensure that “citizens discuss things with reasoning in all forums…”. Military dictatorship “reasoning” grows from the barrel of a gun.
It turns out that Thawilwadee is “a data-analysis expert,” and she said that “after the subcommittee receives ideas and suggestions from the public, it was its job to analyse the data carefully, and focus on rational objectives.” We can only wonder about the idea of turning political ideas into “data” for “processing.” Her view is this remarkable nonsense: “Perhaps what matters most is that any ideas must be able to generalise and produce probability samples to the public…”.
The third process is to “listen” to the views of the people in 10 fora across the country, where the “subcommittee would arrange topics for people to propose in each forum.” Of course, the fora will be limited: “Participants in some cases would have to be chosen to represent their groups, she said, adding that this method would also prevent chaos during the forums.”
These fora are important for they must allow “villagers and the public to take part” – note the distinction between the public and others. That “participation” is so that “when the charter comes out they won’t be able to argue that they were excluded…”.
Even so, “the panel had arranged to limit the topics to be discussed at each forum to prevent an overflow of irrelevant information.”
The fourth stage was also “to consult with the people…”, at least in this report: “She said this stage would also involve beneficiary groups invited to join the forum to debate any conflicting ideas and ‘find solutions’.”
The final stage is “making decisions, and reassuring that the charter belongs to everyone along with empowering the citizens…”. Again, a propaganda phase.
The process is important, not so much for the outcome, but for opening space in the exceptionally narrow political environment under the military dictatorship. But no one should think that the processes are anything other than military-directed measures to control and direct.