- Posted December 17, 2013 by
THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS "TOO MUCH DEMOCRACY"
The author of this article with the headline “In Thailand, Rallying Cry Is Against Too Much Democracy” and much of its content to covey the notion that Thai people out rallying against the government are asking for “less democracy” is at the very least seriously misguided. The article itself, like several before it, uses familiar rhetoric such as election as the only thing to represent democracy without looking at the details of what happens after an election. The world knows there is more to democracy than just election and many other things have to be there as its foundation to call it democracy. The article also conveniently omits crucial facts as to how and why another election before political reform will only lead to another tragedy and trap of election if the rules and other political infrastructure are not changed so democracy can happen in a more transparent and decentralized manner. To paint more colors onto this article, the author, as usual, gets Thai monarchy involved, to set stage for readers to continue to think there is political divide in Thailand between the rich and the poor and the palace is somehow behind this. It conveniently neglects to mention that demonstrators are from all walks of life including farmers and villagers from upcountry, usually known as Pheu Thai’s strong constituents, leaving their jobs behind to sleep on streets days in and days out.
This government is a far cry from democracy. In the past just a little over two years, it has focused much of its attention on amending the Constitution to make it less democratic. For instance, the House (most members are from Pheu Thai Party) passed the Amnesty Bill that will nullified charges against those murderers, arsonists and looters. In addition, the Bill has gone back to cover charges happened well before the coup of 2006 and nullified several corruption charges/convictions and several other counts of charges when 2800 people died during the Tak Bai incident under Thaksin. Victims of these crimes will, once and for all, never have any justice and find out what happened to their loved ones. This is a very serious human right violation. SO HOW IS THIS DEMOCRACY? And please don’t say Thaksin became a martyr after the 2006 coup when he is simply just a convict and fugitive, too fearful and arrogant to face his crimes and punishment. He was given every opportunity to present his evidence in courts to prove his innocence but he could not. Rather, he fleed. The Bill is designed to whitewash him while using tragedies of many others as an excuse. HOW IS THAT DEMOCRACY when the bill passed by this government is for one person and not the majority? The government goes against the will of relatives of those victims. Even the alleged like Abhisit and Suthep facing death sentence if convicted have been most vehemently against the bill although they would be beneficiaries of it too. Why? Because it destroys our rule of law and that IS NOT DEMOCRACY.
This leads to the next issue that makes this government less democratic and the article, once again, conveniently neglects to mention. In the past 10 years, and the past 2 years particularly, the government has had all mainstream media under its thumb. Our Media Freedom Index has dropped from number 66 in 2002 to 135 in 2013, behind countries like Afghanistan (128), Colombia (129), Angola (130), and Libya (131). This is particularly so for people in rural areas with no access to internet connection and social media. Radio stations countrywide have been under the government’s control and will broadcast only what the government wants. So naturally, those villagers are at the government's mercy to be forced-fed with one-sided distorted information. Basic human rights dictate freedom of communication and access to information as foundation for democracy SO HOW IS THAT DEMOCRACY under this government? If those people have free access to well-rounded information through any medium, one has to wonder if Pheu Thai Party will still enjoy the support of some of those people once they know the truth.
This article neglects another crucial piece of information. This government passed the amendment of Constitution Section 190 that gives it the sole power to deal in any business with anybody and any government without having to deliberate anything in Parliament. How horrendous is that? This leads to less democracy, not more.
Then there are matters of several big ticket projects like the 350,000-million baht Water Management Project, 2-million-million baht Infrastructure Project, and the infamous Rice Subsidy Policy losing anywhere from 200,000-400,000 million baht per year. The Water Management Project has never had proper public hearings and referendum prescribed step-by-step in details in our Constitution. No matter how local people in those affected areas oppose this, it has fallen on deaf ears. The Infrastructure Project pitifully has only 4 pages to describe its details. It has been set up hastily without any feasibility study crucial to any project of such scale. In addition, its funding will come from money borrowed under “extraordinary process” designed to avoid monitoring of parliament. People have asked for transparency for the Rice Policy as to how much money has been lost, how it has been lost, and to whom rice has been sold. The government has never provided anyone with any of the details. SO HOW IS THAT DEMOCRACY?
We go on to “Thaksin has never spoken ill of the king.” That is a blatant lie. There are several video clips circulated all over with him speaking ill of His Majesty. Countless number of Redshirts on their stages have been allowed to defame His Majesty. Lese Majeste or not is not the point. The point is anyone in their right mind being defamed like that publicly will defend themselves with defamation suits. Thai monarchy is not afforded such luxury to do that on its own behalf therefore Thai law under Constitution Section 112 is there for a reason. This is not about the elite and royalists fearing their power being encroached upon. The author of this article is also at least seriously misinformed when he suggests that people overlook the controversial aspects of Thaksin’s rule. If so, there would not have been millions of people coming out on streets. The claim about Somsak Jeamteerasakul being a “leading scholar on the monarchy” is ludicrous. Ask several Thai people and scholars to see what they think about this individual. His Majesty is greatly revered because he has done so much for so many of his subjects over the past more than 60 years, more than any of these corrupt individuals can do or even think of. This is definitely not a war between Thaksin and His Majesty. The article has also conveniently neglected the fact on how Shin Corps and other companies related to those powerful and corrupt politicians have controlling stakes in how many big companies in the country. His Majesty has his own personal assets far smaller than the Crown Property Bureau that is managed separately. He lives simply, pays taxes like everyone else, has never built a palace of his own, and uses much of his personal assets to set up more than 3000 projects aimed at helping his subjects to live sufficiently. He has earned the reverence over the years through his action, not simply because he is a king. His Majesty does not own the Crown Property Bureau that has become property of the realm once democracy was bestowed upon Siam in 1932 and Thai Kings become constitutional monarchs. Unlike what is claimed in the article, no one is asking for absolute monarchy.
Those demonstrators are not asking for His Majesty to appoint a prime minister. This government has lost its legitimacy once it has violated so many laws of the realm and refused to accept court’s verdicts. Where else in this world would you find a government like that still staying in power with no shame and wanting to stay on as interim government to set up election that will only benefit itself? The people are asking for an interim PM and government, and that is very well under our Constitution I might add, that is a far cry from the lie about asking for an appointed one. This was done at least once before in 1973. The aim is to have a transparent interim government to reform our political system and infrastructure before the next election so we will not have to deal with a dictatorial government under the cloak of democracy like this again. There are three main things those demonstrators are determined to get through this reform:
1. Strengthened, update, and enforce election laws to prevent vote rigging and allow very serious penalties with death sentence included.
2. No statue of limitation on corruption cases.
3. Decentralization through:
3.1 Having elected officials, particularly governor of each province. Currently, governors and chiefs at district and subdistrict levels are all appointed centrally. This is breeding ground for corruption because these positions are known to have been bought and sold for personal gains. These appointed officials mostly do the government’s bidding rather than working for people in their communities. They are also known to have much influence on for whom people in their communities vote. If we have elected officials, that will increase the likelihood of them doing their jobs for their constituents.
3.2 Reforming Police Department so Police Chief in each province is under the governor of that province rather than one Police Chief under the central government. This will prevent central government from using positions and promotions to entice high-ranking or soon-to-be-high-ranking police officers from selling themselves to do any dirty tricks for the government in exchange for such positions, breaking the laws themselves and neglecting their duty as law enforcement.
Today, unlike what is said in the article about “a minority, including many rich and powerful people, are petrified by the thought of more democracy,” millions of people from all walks of life have come out to rally on several occasions. At least faculties from several prominent medical schools, countrywide medical communities, universities, scholars, statesmen, and business communities through the following 7 pillars of Thai business have also declared their support for political reform before the next election to prevent future never-ending conflicts:
Thai Chamber of Commerce
Industrial Council of Thailand
Thai Banks Association
Thailand Business Council of Capital Markets
Stock Exchange of Thailand
Thailand Association of Companies
Tourism Council of Thailand
The last two small paragraphs of this article talked about a soap opera star even I do not know. It neglects to talk about numerous well-known superstars who have come out as part of these demonstrations. This is very unusual knowing that their careers may be jeopardized for doing so. However, what is happening in Thailand at the hands of this government has pushed everyone over the edge, including these superstars, and to be brave enough to come out and fight. And once again, no one among this crowd is saying democracy does not suit us. Far from not understanding democracy, they know it all too well, particularly when it is being shamelessly ripped from their body and soul right before their eyes by this heinous government and those representatives/senators who passed those nefarious laws.
Lastly, it is an insult to the wisdom and determination of millions of protestors who have come out day after day on these rallies to say they are asking for “less democracy.” These are well-informed people who dutifully check what their government and representatives are up to and how they are destroying their beloved country. They are only asking for reform that will take 12-18 months before the next election. What has happened to Thailand over the past 10 years under Thaksin regime is so destructive that it is a matter of life and death for Thailand so we must fight. People in this regime like to say they promote democracy but it is only “dictatorship under the cloak of democracy” they are promoting.