- Posted January 10, 2014 by
CURRENT SITUATION IN THAILAND
Professor Dr. Amorn Chandarasomboon on the current situation in Thailand
Translation of his interview (thank you, MP):
This crisis is the greatest crisis our country has ever faced, but I am glad it happened. Without it, things would be even worse in the future. This crisis has made Thai people see the problem and try to solve it.
The problem stems from the fact that our Constitution is not democratic.
If you look at the constitutions of all the developed countries in Europe, you will see that there are two principles of democracy: (1) There must be elections, and (2) the elected representatives must have the ability to perform their duties independently and in accordance with their conscience, free of any external control or order.
Our current Constitution has bred a system of capitalist autocracy, which is an autocracy by a group of capitalists in the form of a political party, operating under a parliamentary system. This is the result of the following three provisions of the Constitution: (1) Members of Parliament must belong to a political party; (2) a political party can expel its members for disobeying party resolutions (resulting in such members losing their MP status); and (3) a Prime Minister must be a Member of Parliament. (Thailand is the only country on earth that has such rules.) This system of capitalist autocracy, in which those with money buy votes and obtain absolute power of the State in a parliamentary system, has led to gross corruption. It is a seizing of absolute power by a group of capitalists.
This system began in 1992 with political parties of provincial capitalists. But later, capitalists at the national level pooled their funds and bought candidates for Members of Parliament from provincial capitalists, bought Members of Parliament from provincial capitalists’ political parties, and finally bought entire political parties. Members of Parliament are under the power of a group of wealthy people, whose power can be exerted even from outside the country.
It is our own rules that enabled this group of people to seize absolute power. There is no country in the world that grants amnesty to those who misappropriated the State’s assets. Allowing this situation to continue would result in the demise of the country.
The problem was caused by the belief of this group of people that their power is absolute.
This public uprising is a great thing. It is a good opportunity for Thai people to see this problem before the demise of the country.
Whether and to what extent the demand for the return of power will succeed depends not only on the text of the Constitution, but also on the reality of where the power lies. Millions of people have come out to protest, but they have not gained full control of power.
If we have a new election while these three provisions of the Constitution still remain, the system of capitalist autocracy in the form of a political party would return, regardless of whether it’s Mr. Thaksin or someone else. This is because a capitalist can see the benefit of investing in vote buying and then seizing absolute power. The crisis would return. Therefore, if there is a new election, these three provisions must first be removed. But how can we remove these three provisions from the Constitution before an election?
When we have built a system that allowed the seizing of absolute power by a group of capitalists in the form of a political party, and the people who have already seized absolute power refused to amend this power in accordance with the Constitution, the only way to amend the Constitution is through a revolution.
A revolution is necessary. Many people think it should not happen, but a revolution is just a method. Whether or not a revolution is good depends on the revolution’s purpose. If we understand that our Constitution today violates internationally accepted principles of democracy, then a revolution to amend an undemocratic Constitution to make it democratic is necessary, right, and something that should be done. This is because it turns something wrong into something right.
The problem is evident that a number of people, perhaps millions, see that our Constitution enables a system of capitalist autocracy, but have not gained full control of the State’s power. So there might be a need for someone capable of asserting such control of the State’s power to step in and proceed to solve this problem for the people.
I recall the King’s speech on December 5, in which he stressed that the duty to help solve the national crisis is the duty of everyone. The King is subject to the Constitution and has no absolute power, but he probably wishes for the problem to be solved. I believe that all Thai citizens, especially those who have taken an oath before His Majesty, have the duty and responsibility to solve the problem.
Solving this problem requires an amendment to the Constitution. When those who have seized absolute control of power would not amend it, it became necessary to make an amendment outside of the system, which is a revolution. I do not know who would lead a revolution. There needs to be a courageous leader. At the moment, those with courage have no power.
The crisis was caused by our Constitution’s violation of internationally accepted principles of democracy. Our Members of Parliament lack independence to perform their duties in accordance with their conscience. Positions for civil servants must be positions for those with competence and ability, not gifts for siblings and relatives to bestow on each other. Laws that cannot serve as a basis for a democratic government need to be reformed. These laws must be thoroughly examined and amended into an efficient system.
The problem is that right now there is no way out. Everyone only sees problems, but there is no one to solve them. Some groups of people are trying, but they have no authority to amend the Constitution. Therefore anyone who is in the position to fix the Constitution must cooperate in the effort to amend the Constitution.
I feel this may be a great and only opportunity for the responsible party to make a decision and solve the problem, because if at this stage Thailand still cannot find anyone to solve the problem then in the future the demise of Thailand is certain.
At the moment, the public has already demonstrated clearly what is right and wrong in the management of the country. This is already too much and too great a sacrifice. If those who have the ability to solve the problem don’t step in to do it for the Thai people or for the King who is subject to the Constitution, then I think it is a pity for Thailand.
I believe this is the best opportunity which may never present itself again in the future.
The election problem is only a part of the problem of governing the country. I am glad that Thai people think we should reform our country in a broader sense, that they want to organize institutions, that they want cooperation from many groups of Thais. These things must be designated with clear guidelines.
Therefore I have proposed that we submit to the King to grant a Constitution for the purpose of reforming the country, not just reforming politics or political institutions, but reforming the country. This includes the legal system which is the current basis for bad governance. There needs to be research and amendment of these laws. These things take a fair amount of time. It takes time to research and to amend important laws, whether concerning the police, the public attorneys, the distribution of power, or the management of day-to-day government operations. Even after establishing guidelines, it still takes time to adapt existing laws to new forms of laws. These things require time, I think three years at least.
Regarding the term the People’s Council, the question is, where do the people come from? I think the formation of a People’s Council would have a conflict from the very beginning over which citizens get to be members of the council. Therefore it is not the correct way to solve the problem, and it probably is not achievable. This is because we can’t figure out who the council members will be and who will choose them. Same with the several professions. We don’t know how many professions there are, and we will have to argue which professions are the important or not important ones. I don’t think that this method of problem solving would get us through our crisis.
A temporary two-month government would not truly solve the problem. And we have already stated that to solve the problem we need to amend the Constitution. Therefore there needs to be a revolution. A revolution would open the way to establish a temporary government without having to force the Prime Minister to resign. And even if she were to resign, it would still not truly solve our problem. The problem would return. But I don’t know who would lead a revolution. It must be someone who has power, who has the duty to act for the public, and to take responsibility on behalf of the King who is subject to the Constitution.
We need to understand that there is only one country on earth with this system of capitalist autocracy. I believe that these types of events have already happened in developed countries. That is why they have established rules that require their elected representatives to have the ability to perform their duties independently. If we study comparative law, we will see that the organization of other countries’ institutions has been developed to create checks and balances of power to require officials to use their power for the good of the public.
If we are going to reform Thailand, we ought to study other countries which had experienced something similar. For example, Germany, France under de Gaulle, or even the United States in the mid-19th century, used to have a lot of corruption. They took more than a hundred years to solve their problems. We should invite law professors from these countries to share with us how they fixed these problems, learn from the experience of developed countries how they established their systems and organized their State institutions, in order to adapt their ideas for use in our country.