Democracy and gloom II

16 05 2014

The future for democracy looks brighter when the Bangkok Post reports that activists observe that “[a]n election held as soon as possible is the only feasible way of reaching a peaceful solution to the current political crisis…”. The report is worth quoting almost in full:

The “Let the People Decide” network also demanded that the Senate talk to civic groups and let them air their views like it did with the anti-government People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) on Monday….

Jessada Denduangboripant, a Third Pillar Against Violence core member, said the PDRC’s call for an non-elected premier to take the helm of an interim government would only deepen the divide in Thai society.

Mr Jessada, also an assistant science professor at Chulalongkorn University, said various civic groups have called for a democratic solution to the protracted crisis over the past six months, but have now united to send a strong message to the public that voters were the only neutral party who should decide who would lead the country.

Ake Atthakorn, a member of the Respect My Vote group, said the Senate should stop trying to derail the democratic process by pretending to act as a peacemaker.

“Stop pretending to listen to the people. Those pressing parliament are not the majority in this country. We know what you are plotting,” Mr Ake said.

“Certain senators are violating the law. If they dare install a non-elected prime minister, they will face overwhelming opposition,” he warned.

Chanya Chamnankul, of the My Freedom group, said her group has been studying the impact of PDRC-led protests in Pattaya, Udon Thani and Ubon Ratchathani.

“People want to see the country progress. They believe the best way is to elect their own representatives. If they turn out no good, people can boot them out. They don’t need others to come out onto the streets to overthrow them,” Ms Chanya said.

She said her group would like to see a successful election install a government.

“It’s ridiculous that certain agencies are pursuing the ousted PM while those who blocked the Feb 2 election are still walking around free,” Ms Chanya said.

She questioned the legal status of Surachai Liangboonlertchai as Senate Speaker, saying he might have violated parliamentary regulations by placing the Senate speaker election on the Upper House’s special session agenda.

Kittichai Ngamchaipisit, of the Enough is Enough group, said the PDRC call for reform before an election was just a ruse to confuse the people.

“Anyone wanting reform should contest an election to get the people’s endorsement,” he said.

“We must proceed democratically, with an election, which is the best way to solve differences of opinion in Thai society,” Mr Kittichai added.

barking_mad - CopyBut then PPT is brought back to the gloomy reality of the anti-progressive, anti-democratic, unlawful and barking mad in another Bangkok Post report, where a bunch of unelected, unrepresentative and elite-selected trogladytes are claimed to have decided and “agreed a fully authoritative government is needed to see in political reforms…”.

“Appointed Senator Wanchai Sornsiri” meaning an unelected senator from the so-called private sector and a card-carrying yellow shirt “said after the meeting that most participants wanted to see such a government as soon as possible.” Sounding like anti-democrat boss Suthep Thaugsuban or even the irrelevant Abhisit Vejjajiva, this unelected and unrepresentative anti-democrat stated that such an unelected and unconstitutional government “should be in place for six to 12 months in order to see through election reforms and ensure peace before elections take place.” In other words, only have elections after the anti-democrats fix the system so only their people can get elected to government, turning back the popular tide that has rejected the royalist political parties time and time again.

Who were the seven public organizations that met “acting Senate Speaker Surachai Liangboonlertchai”? It will be no surprise to learn that they are the very organizations created by the military junta-backed government in its 2007 constitution to undermine any elected government. In other words, the very same organizations in charge of the creeping judicial coup: “the Supreme Court, the Administrative Court, the Election Commission (EC), the Office of the Ombudsman, the National Anti-Corruption Commission, the National Human Rights Commission, and the National Economic and Social Advisory Council.”

The only two that didn’t show up were the Constitutional Court and the Office of the Attorney-General, but it is known that they are fully on board with the judicial coup.

Each of these organizations is deeply politicized and fully committed to undermining electoral democracy in Thailand.

Based on the meeting, deeply yellow unelected “Senator Khamnoon Sitthisamarn said the EC was unlikely to proceed with the planned July 20 election if it was unsure about the status and authority of acting caretaker Prime Minister Niwatthamrong Bunsongphaisarn.” Hell, they haven’t wanted to run an election since former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra dissolved parliament. Thailand’s Election Commission is the Commission for Preventing Elections.

Bending, breaking, trampling and sullying the law seems to be the stock in trade of this lounge of anti-democrats.


Calling for an absolute monarchy

4 05 2014

In responding to Abhisit Vejjajiva’s most recent narcissistic efforts at playing leader and offering a “reform plan,” anti-democrat monk Buddha Issara reportedly said: “Abhisit had offered nothing new in his proposal and that the only way out would be returning the power to His Majesty.”

The pot calling the kettle black it seems, for calling on the king to get rid of elected governments is as old as the People’s Alliance for Democracy.

As reported in Khaosod, the monk’s call is for anti-democrats to join him in a demonstration in Hua Hin which would call on the king “to directly intervene in Thailand’s ongoing political crisis.” He plans to do this on 16 May “to ‘return the royal power’ to the king.”

The monk believes and hopes “that the 2007 Constitution permits His Majesty the King to replace Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra with a new leader of his own royal discretion.” This would be done, he babbles, using Article 3 of the basic law:

The sovereign power belongs to the Thai people. The King as Head of State shall exercise such power through the National Assembly, the Council of Ministers and the Courts in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution.

Buddha Issara is wrong, but legalities don’t worry the anti-democrats, and this has been a mantra of the anti-democrats for some time. The “innovation” this time round is that the current anti-democrats refer to Article 3 whereas PAD wanted Article 7 used.

Why is the monk trundling off to Hua Hin now? He seems to be frustrated:

“If Suthep and other PCAD leaders cannot close the game [against Ms. Yingluck],” Buddha Issara said, referring to PCAD sec-gen Suthep Thaugsuban, “They should turn to Article 3 and join the demonstration with us.”

“I believe this method will not embarrass the leaders or the demonstrators,” the monk said.

As red shirt leader Weng Tojirakarn points out, “Buddha Issara’s demands are essentially equivalent to an attempt to restore the system of Absolute Monarchy, in which the king can exercise executive power and appoint Prime Ministers at his own discretion.”


Updated: Constitutional Court firmly in the hands of royalists

25 04 2014

The Constitutional Court really does go out of its way to demonstrate that it is in the hands of royalists.

The supposedly independent court demonstrated, for the umpteenth time, its complete and tonal bias in support of royalists, anti-democrats and the Democrat Party by inviting former Democrat Party prime minister and party stalwart Chuan Leekpai to speak at the Court’s 16th anniversary on the theme of “Political reform under the rule of law.” In the spirit of bias and double standards, Chuna said “the problems plaguing the country now had to do with the government’s mishandling of policies and using unlawful approaches in administration.” Chuan, with tongue firmly planted in cheek or perhaps not even recognizing his lack of connection to reality stated:

“The rule of law is a part of good governance. Adhering to the law to administer the country will bring peace to the country. However, there will be new problems if the government resorts to unlawful approaches (in dealing with national administration),” he said, alleging that on many occasions, the rule of law has been violated.

The anti-democrats he supports have never acknowledged the law.

Adding to the royalist feast of tripe and nonsense, Bowonsak Uwanno was wheeled out at the same event. He is reported to have stressed that “upholding the rule of law was imperative in allowing the country to progress and anyone who undermines the rule of law also destroys democracy.” His view was that “the Constitutional Court should have the authority to decide on its own what section of the charter to alter, if such content warrants amending.” In effect, Bowonsak is making a case for undermining the rule of law – the constitution is the basic law – and advocating another of the hundred cuts that is the royalist destruction of democracy.

Perhaps he is just a dope or is too blinded by royalist nonsense to see that the constitutional path to changing the constitution – and yes, it is the junta’s constitution that he himself spent a lot of time concocting – is clearly stated in section 291 of the constitution. It allows no role for amendment by the unelected court.

Perhaps he needs a Ferrari.

Update: A reader suggests that we needed to link this post to a Khaosod story on the Constitutional Court.



On the judicial coup’s progress

1 04 2014

Thomas Fuller at the New York Times provides an account of the judicial coup in progress. His story coincides with Yingluck Shinawatra’s brief appearance at the National Anti-Corruption Commission.

Fuller observes:

Although nominally independent, a number of the judges and top officials in the agencies handling cases against Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s government have had longstanding antagonistic relationships with Ms. Yingluck and her party.

Fuller cites Verapat Pariyawong, a lawyer and commentator:

It no longer makes sense to attempt to explain the current political situation in Thailand by relying on legal principles…. The current situation is more or less a phenomenon of raw politics whereby the rule of law is conveniently stretched and stripped to fit a political goal.

Wicha Mahakhun, a member of the NACC and former constitution drafter for the military junta in 2007, is quoted from back then: “We all know elections are evil…”. He added: “People, especially academics who want to see the Constitution lead to genuine democracy, are naïve…”.

Readers can catch his anti-democratic bias immediately. Fuller adds that: “Three current judges of the Constitutional Court, which has repeatedly ruled against the government in recent months, were also members of the post-coup commission to rewrite the Constitution.”

PPT has always referred to the appointed senators as the demon seed of the military junta and it is clear that we should be applying this terminology to the judges as well.

Like PPT, Likhit Dhiravegin, said to be “a prominent academic and frequent commentator on television,” has said that “an ‘orchestrated’ judicial coup was already underway.” He added: “everybody knows about it, inside and outside the country.”

It is all politics

26 03 2014

David Streckfuss has an op-ed in the Bangkok Post that raises some important points. He begins:

The political situation in Thailand is slowly but surely ratcheting up to something akin to a civil war. Civil wars are by nature bloody affairs that bring out the worst in everyone, let loose the extremists on all sides, and have no real heroes.

StreckfussHe suggests ways to avoid a bloodbath. The first is “to proceed as constitutionally as possible.” Maybe not, given that the current constitution is a military junta artefact and the courts interpret it in weird ways. The second “is to throw the entire framework of government back to the people,” but that seems inherently flawed to PPT. After all, the junta sent its draft constitution to a referendum and required just a yes/no answer on a huge document that was flawed in many places. He concludes that the “third possibility is to let things continue as they are,” which hardly seems likely to end confrontation.

PPT thinks there is a fourth possibility: the royalist elite needs to compromise and accept parliamentary elections and get of their fat butts and get serious about getting elected and ditch its coup-cum-massacre and born-to-rule mentality. Other sets of plutocrats and powerful oligarchs managed to do this in other places.

In all of this, we did like one point Streckfuss emphasized:

By acknowledging that Thailand is split politically, the country could free itself of the façade of neutral brokers. It recognises that “politics” is not what politicians do but rather the exercise and constraints of public power by any party. Under this definition, many groups are involved in the political project: civil society groups, social movements, elected officials, bureaucrats, and even the Crown Property Bureau and the monarchy. “Politics” is no longer a dirty word; it’s just the dynamic underlying any political society.

That would be a useful acknowledgement.



Opposing the Constitutional Court

24 03 2014

The Bangkok Post includes a story about a “group of academics calling themselves the Assembly for the Defence of Democracy (AFDD) yesterday issued a statement opposing the Constitution Court’s ruling to void the results of the Feb 2 general election.” We thought this statement well worth reproducing in full, and nicked it from Asia Provocateur:

Statement of the Assembly for the Defense of Democracy (AFDD)

We Oppose the Ruling of the Constitutional Court Intended to Render the 2 February 2014 Election Unconstitutional.

The Constitutional Court has ruled on a matter forwarded to them by the Ombudsman under Article 245 (1) of the Constitution. The matter in question was whether or not the general parliamentary election held on 2 February 2014, in line with the Royal Decree on the Dissolution of Parliament (2013), was constitutional. In a statement announced by the Chief Spokesperson  of the Constitutional Court, the Court commented that there were 28 electoral districts in which there were no candidates who submitted applications to contend in the 2 February 2014 election.  The Court further commented that elections cannot be held in those districts after 2 February because the effect would be that the general election was not held simultaneously on the same day across the kingdom. Therefore, the Court ruled that the 2 February 2014 election was not one that was held simultaneously on the same day throughout the kingdom. The effect of this ruling is to make the Royal Decree on the Dissolution of Parliament (2013), particularly the setting of the date of 2 February 2014 for the election, unconstitutional and in contradiction with Article 108, paragraph two, of the Constitution. It is the view of the Assembly for the Defense of Democracy (AFDD) that this ruling of the Constitutional Court ruling contains the following problems of constitutionality and political legitimacy:

1. Article 245 (1) of the Constitution of Thailand stipulates that the Ombudsman can propose a matter to the Constitutional Corut when he thinks that there is “any provision of law that begs the question of constitutionality.” Therefore, the substance of the case that the Ombudsman has the discretion to send to the Constitutional Court to consider must be a “provision of law.” But in this case, the clearly visible problem is that the substance of the case is “the holding of the general election.” When the substance of the case is not a “provision of law,” the Ombudsman cannot propose the case to the Constitutional Court, and if the Ombudsman forwards such a matter to the Constitutional Court, it is the duty of the Court to refuse to accept the request for examination. The acceptance of the aforementioned matter by the Constitutional Court is unconstitutional in line with Article 245 (1) and is equivalent to the Constitutional Court singlehandedly amending the Constitution and altering the substance of the permitted cases for examination under Article 245 (1). There is no provision in the Constitution that gives the Constitutional Court the authority to do so.

2. Article 108, paragraph two, of the 2007 Constitution of Thailand prescribes that, “The dissolution of the House of Representatives shall be made in the form of a Royal Decree in which the day for a new general election must be fixed within the period of not less than forty five days but not more than sixty days as from the date of the dissolution of the House of Representatives and such election day must be the same throughout the Kingdom.” The facts show that the election day was set for the same date (2 February 2014) throughout the whole kingdom in the Royal Decree on the Dissolution of Parliament (2013). The aforementioned setting of the date of the general election was therefore constitutional.

But in this case it appears that the Constitutional Court has used evidence of events that occurred after, and were unrelated to the setting of the date of the general election, as the basis of their examination. In other words, the Court used the fact of candidates not being able to register to compete in the election in 28 electoral districts to claim that if a general election was held in these districts after 2 February 2014, it would mean that the general election was not held on the same day simultaneously throughout the kingdom. The Court made this claim even though the Constitution does not mandate that the general election must occur on the same day throughout the whole kingdom. There may be acts of god or other unavoidable incidents which may make holding an election on the same day as the rest of the country impossible in some districts. The Constitution stipulates only that the election day must be “set” to be the same day simultaneously throughout the kingdom. Therefore, the setting of the date was already done constitutionally.

3. In addition, there is also the fact that, on the whole, the 2 February 2014 election passed in an orderly fashion. The Constitutional Court’s raising of the instances of not being able to register to run for election in some districts as a result of obstruction by some individuals in order to claim that the section of the Royal Decree on the Dissolution of Parliament (2013) that set the date for the general election was unconstitutional was done with the intention to spoil the  election. In addition to having no basis in law, there is an additional problem of interpretation of this ruling. Have the ballots of those people who went to vote on 2 February 2014 been destroyed or not, and under the authority of which Constitutional or other legal provision?

4. Analyzed from a perspective of political struggle, it can be seen that the obstacle to the election came from the collaboration between the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) and individuals who support the PDRC inside and outside the Parliament, and collaboration between those who are overt and covert in their actions to destroy parliamentary democracy. In addition, the Election Commission of Thailand (ECT) did not act with an intention to work in line with their framework of authority and duty in order to successfully hold elections. Therefore, an effect of the ruling of the Constitutional Court is to prop up opposition to electoral democracy and make it come to fruition. This ruling disregards and neglects the rights of the people: those who hold the authority [in the country] and can express this authority in line with the rules and regulations that are in force.

5. This cooperation to oppose democracy will continue to create a political vacuum in order to open up the space for an extraconstitutional prime minister and government to come to power, and in order to push forward amendment of the Constitution in a direction that will weaken and devastate electoral democracy. The Assembly for the Defense of Democracy therefore condemns these attempts, those that have occurred and those that will occur in the near future, as antithetical to the basic rights and liberties of the people.

6. It is clear that from the 2006 coup up until the present, all of the independent agencies and the judiciary have become instruments of a powerful minority group acting in opposition to democracy. This group does so simply because they wish to swiftly destroy their political opponents. This has allowed the independent organizations and the judiciary to become distorted and seized to be used in the service of the destruction of democracy and the economic development of the country for the the sole purpose of causing the nation to become stagnant in a smelly, clogged whirlpool of violent conflict without end. Therefore, it is time for the people to come together to demand that the independent organizations and the judiciary are reformed and checks and balances are established. It is time to demand that these important mechanisms of the country come to be under the supervision of organizations representive of the voice of the majority. The people must take on these important tasks and make these changes come to fruition in the near future.

7. This method of spoiling elections has progressed for nearly a decade and may cause the nation to fall into a state of violence from which there is no exit. This state will remain until every authority and every side in Thai society comes to respect the equal voting rights of the people.

The Assembly for the Defense of Democracy would like to assert that the only solution for Thai society at present is to accept the principles of “equality of the people,” “sovereignty belongs to the entirety of Thai people,” “legitimacy of the majority,” and “respect in the rights and liberties of minority voices.” This is necessary to carry out reforms to eradicate the mechanisms that are antithetical to democracy, and before democracy, which is barely holding on at present, is completely destroyed.

Losing the plot

1 02 2014

PPT has usually read Thitinan Pongsudhirak of Chulalongkorn University with considerable interest and sympathy. This time, however, he seems to have lost his way in his op-ed at the New York Times.

Yes, sure, the political deadlock “is crippling the country,” but every commentator has said this.

But his commentary gets weak when he refers to “reset options that have worked in past times of crisis — a royal intervention or a military coup — do not appear to be in the offing.”

This is an odd perspective. The military coup has generally been about re-establishing the status quo ante, not “resetting.” And the king’s interventions have been about that, sometimes via shocking crackdown and sometimes to prevent a catastrophic loss by the elite. This latter scenario occurred in 1992 and whike his “moral authority” might be unrivaled, it is not unchallenged.

That “there have been no signs so far that he might intervene” should not surprise a student of politics, where a non-intervention is also a statement of position and intent.

After a couple of hundred words describing the general situation, Thitinan concludes that: “The only way forward for Thailand is to hold reforms in order to strike a more viable balance between the majority and the minority.”

What’s the evidence for deciding this? Apparently, the “Yingluck [Shinawatra] administration has deployed its unassailable parliamentary majority to ram through disastrous policies, such as an amnesty bill that would have absolved Thaksin of corruption charges.”

ThitinanDid it? This is an exaggeration. The government did this in the case of the lower house, but it responded to public pressure and withdrew the bill from the upper house. That is the way a parliamentary democracy usually works. It is an example of parliament functioning, not of dysfunction.

When Thitinan opines, like the anti-democrats, that “electoral winners cannot do as they please after scoring at the ballot box,” he should be applauding the success of the opposition to the dumb amnesty bill. He should also acknowledge that governments are elected on a platform, and it is their duty to implement that platform. The Yingluck government has repeatedly backed away from this duty in the name of compromise. In this sense, its supporters, the majority, can rightly complain that their wishes are ignored.

His claim that:

Rather than trying to seize power without regard for the will of the majority of Thai people who elected Ms. Yingluck, Mr. Suthep and the P.D.R.C. must make concrete demands and propose an actionable agenda on good governance that is acceptable to other parties. And the Yingluck government must address those grievances, by making political reforms a top national priority.

This is a nonsense. For a start, Suthep’s lot are about bringing down the government, and they offer no compromise. One might also ask why it is that reform is so desperately needed when all of the basic rules were set by the military and anti-democrat allies when they drew up the new rules of the 2007 constitution. That they keep wanting to change the rules doesn’t amount to reform. Rather it is about sour grapes, elite control and re-establishing the subordinate position of voters who seem to challenge them.


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