Tan Hui Yee at the Straits Times has a useful discussion of the constitution drafting charade. We at PPT felt that it was a good follow-up to our earlier comments on the charade where we were disgusted by the political toadying of Somchai Wongsawat.
Recall that Somchai babbled about lawyer-for-royalist-hire Bowornsak Uwanno being “respected” and about the military dictatorship’s “sincere effort” to “take care of the country, solve the conflicts, and lead our country forward.” When he asserted that: “We accept and understand it. I want everyone to think of the country, so that the international community will not look down on us…”, he was wrong on every count.
Tan explains why he is so very wrong.
Thailand’s 19th Constitution (depending how you count them) is “being penned under the close watch of the military government, with martial law shielding the drafters from the most contentious of debates.”
While there will be some debates, this is mostly a facade of squabbling amongst a narrow set of options acceptable to the military dictatorship.
As Tan says, the “Constitution Drafting Committee plans to hold public hearings from this month. While the final version will be tabled only later this year … its broad strokes are already apparent to most observers…”.
What is broadly acceptable? “It will crimp the power of erstwhile dominant political parties and make it easier for an unelected person to assume the helm of the country.”
Borwornsak wants “an unelected premier as a last resort that can be used to break a political deadlock and avert military intervention.” This is nonsense, but then that his his stock in trade.
Chulalongkorn University political scientist Naruemon Thabchumpon says “This is a ‘retro’ Constitution,” that many know will “usher in a period of unstable coalition governments that dominated Thai politics more than a decade ago.”
PPT has been saying this for several months. And Tan agrees that it is “the 1980s, [when] military strongman Prem Tinsulanonda was prime minister despite being unelected” that seems like the model. He notes that it is “Prem, who now heads the Privy Council … [who] remains an influential elder to the current crop of coup-makers.”
He’s the boss, but is gradually being eased out. Despite this, his ideas a widely accepted by the royalist military, in the palace, by the Sino-Thai tycoons and other members of the elite who know they must rule to protect their wealth and political power.
Academic prostitutes like Panitan Wattanayagorn, who is now advertised as “an adviser to Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan” – he does have many patrons all of them right-wing fascists – sounds exactly like Somchai when he asserts the “ideas being discussed by the Charter drafters ‘far exceed expectations’… saying, “everybody needs to compromise…”. By “everyone” he means all who do not agree with the rightist military fascists.
Tan concludes with a note on the uncertainties of succession, pointing out that “some wonder if the drafters would work in a clause or two that would legitimise a role for the junta even after elections.”
We know the answer: yes. The result will be, in Tan’s words “a shiny new Constitution, but exactly the same powers pulling the strings.” Even the wine being poured into the Army’s green bottles is sour.