The gift is 73 senators appointed under the junta-appointed Surayud Chulanont government’s 2007 constitution.
Surayud was prime minister after he was plucked from the Privy Council that advises the king in order to rollback the gains of the 1997 constitution and the legacy of elected governments under Thaksin Shinawatra. The 2007 constitution sought to embed a less representative form of government (a process that continues today under the royalist Abhisit Vejjajiva regime).
As The Nation explains, the “list of 73 newly chosen senators announced by the Election Commission yesterday did include many with strong links to the 2006 coup-makers’ Council for National Security and defectors from Thaksin Shinawatra’s group.” The junta’s representatives will hold the balance of power in parliament for a further six years. In other words, the 2006 coup group seeks to continue to control politics in the interests of the royalist elite until at least 2017, meaning more than a decade of military and fellow travelers will have effectively been, if not formally in charge, then a veto block, for a decade.
Former senior military junta leader General Somjed Boonthanom said he was “proud to be selected.” And why wouldn’t he be? The junta established a regime of repression and control that sought to protect the country and monarchy from the electoral masses, and he is now in such a position. He can seek to ensure that full representative democracy is never allowed under his watch.
Who selected these offspring of the junta and coup? Those charged with selecting were: Constitutional Court president Chut Chonlavorn, Election Commission chairman Apichart Sukhagganond, Chief Ombudsman Pramote Chotemongkol, National Anti-Corruption Commission chairman Panthep Klanarongran, Supreme Court Justice Montri Sriiamsa-ard and Supreme Administrative Court Justice Kasem Komsattham. None are particularly partial to democratic politics and all are proud servants of the crown and backers of royalist rule.
To further cement the network of opposition to representative politics, the committee also selected and re-selected senators who are close to the People’s Alliance for Democracy, businesspeople who were close to the junta and who backed the PAD, and a former member of the Assets Scrutiny Committee that was a yellow-hued, semi-legal body that investigated Thaksin and his family after his overthrow and was close to the junta. Other selected senators are known to be close to the current Abhisit government, including the younger brother of Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwan, others with links to Newin Chidchob’s Bhum Jai Thai Party and defectors from pro-Thaksin parties and the usual bunch of yellow-hued academics known for their ability to hawk themselves to those in power.
The Bangkok Post concludes, somewhat unremarkably, that “Many of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s staunchest opponents were among 73 new members of the Senate announced by the Election Commission…”. By the Post’s calculation, 23 of the re-appointed senators were from the staunchly anti-Thaksin group of 40.
The selection committee still manages to mumble something about having “their dignity and could not be influenced”. PPT isn’t sure about dignity, but it may well be true that they weren’t “influenced.” After all, they are paid-up members of the royalist elite, so they know what they had to do. Then again, we doubt the grey hairs were prepared to allow the selectors to operate without appropriate guidance.
Calls for an elected senate have come from the Puea Thai Party and even via a Bangkok Post editorial. Such calls will not be heeded as the royalist elite is desperate to maintain control and to protect their interests.
One thing that is clear is that any elected government that is not pro-royalist is going to have a very hard time and will be prevented from governing in its own right. That’s the point of all of this. and the many other changes being hastily implemented before an election is called.