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They distrust the politicians and voters ... so who's left? | Bangkok Post

9 กุมภาพันธ์ 2558, 23:00 น.
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They distrust the politicians and voters ... so who's left?

As the country is entering a mode of reconstructing socio-political landscapes, debates on who will call the final shots for democracy in Thailand are unfortunately tamed, thanks to martial law.

The age-old law is still effective as the alliance of elites, military and bureaucrats who have sweated in the past decades to maintain the status quo believe that now is their last chance to set a political order in their favour, which appears to be taking society back to a more rigid centralisation.

The junta has assured the public and the world that they are still on track with the roadmap, that they are open to proposals and views, and that the new constitution will be ready by the end of this year, and the election will be held early next year.

But in reality, charter drafters, law-makers and the junta do not have to listen to any cautions and criticisms from inside or outside the country. In their view, they need a much stronger tool than have existed previously to fix the perceived weaknesses in the 1997 constitution which gave rise to strong executive power.

They feel political compromise is no answer this time around. If anything, the 2006 coup lessons have taught them the only way to stop the defiant forces under former leader Thaksin Shinawatra is to uproot them from the political system.

Political parties are crippled to serving the aims of maiming Thaksin-linked parties and politicians, while impeachment goes on against MPs and senators who voted in 2013 in favour of the 2007 constitutional amendment.

The current talk about German-style mid-size political party politics as a new option is simply a diversion of the rule-setters since they will create other mechanisms to oversee whichever political parties are daring enough to run in future elections.

After all, these political parties will be allowed to hatch only after the rules of the game (the charter is being drafted without any say from the career politicians) have been put in place.

Those who see the merits of an elected Senate will never see it happen either, as members will most likely be nominated.

When civil society or grassroots organisations are given a chance to address their concerns, they are not only patronised, but many become targets of suspicion by the authorities.

It is not uncommon for them to be summoned for questioning, ordered to stop their activities, or even get arrested.

An idea about a new appointment method for permanent secretaries through a new committee comprising C-11 personnel from various ministries also reflects the efforts to strengthen centralised administration even more.

A new round of summoning of former Pheu Thai MPs who voiced opinions against the regime has also reflected increasing intolerance for criticism.

A group of cyber security laws that claim to be fostering the digital economy are poorly drafted with no transparency.

Though scaled back following a fierce pubic outcry for their serious violations of privacy and human rights, the draft cyber security laws reflect the authorities' surveillance mentality, as if citizens are naïve, bad and ignorant.

The proposal to combine the Ombudsman's Office and the National Human Rights Commission also shows short-sightedness by the charter drafters.

The latest shocking move is a proposed amendment to the Statute of the Military Court Act, which would grant military commanders powers to detain civilians for up to 84 days.

The London-based Amnesty International and Bangkok-based Human Rights Lawyers' Association have opposed the move, saying "the Thai military authorities are trying to give themselves even more power to violate the human rights treaties by which the country is bound".

This proposed amendment will consolidate arbitrary detention ordered by a military officer instead of a judge, and should be withdrawn immediately, they said.

From the junta's point of view, this amendment could help them control security threats once martial law is lifted.

All in all, whichever legal documents emerge this year will certainly echo the winners' objective — which is to secure the supremacy of the military and Bangkok elites.

For sure, troubles still loom ahead as the junta-appointed men — those who hold the old belief that the majority of people are not yet enlightened and are still largely enticed by money politics — still dream of a land of morality with a centralised grip on power.



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