Giles Ji Ungpakorn
Recently conservative anti-reform academics, such as Nakarin Mektrairat and Suchit Bunbongkarn, have been singing the praises of the German political system as a model for Thailand. But their praises are based on a selective account of the German system and a distortion of the facts about Thai politics.
The German electoral system has ballots for constituency MPs and Party List MPs, which was similar to the system brought in for Thailand under the 1997 constitution, although the German system is slightly better at reflecting the proportion of votes cast for each party.
What is good about the German system, when compared to Thailand, is the election of a Head of State, the lack of any lèse majesté law, and the fact that Germany has a federal system as opposed to Thailand’s centralised state. Such a federal system in Thailand might be a step towards solving the long standing war in Patani.
The German army, when it was re-established after the Second World War, involved a screening committee to weed out generals who did not believe in democracy. We could do with that in Thailand.
But naturally both Nakarin Mektrairat and Suchit Bunbongkarn do not wish to introduce any of these good points to Thai politics.
Suchit Bunbongkarn is an old established right-wing academic, educated in the U.S., and of the “Structural Functionalism School”. Suchit was a Constitutional Judge. The un-elected Constitutional Court believed that it had the right to veto any policies put forward by an elected government. He is now working for the military junta in drawing up an anti-reform constitution. Previously, in his academic writings, he supported the idea that the Thai population took “no interest” in politics and that people were trapped in a “patron-client” system which tied them to individual politicians. He advocated strengthening political parties and a democratic culture. Now he has changed his tune without a blink of an eye lid. He now claims that political parties are “too strong”. This is because he hates Taksin’s pro-poor policies. He wants to turn the clock back to the old days when the electorate just voted for influential individuals and no parties had any real policies.
Nakarin Mektrairat is also busy working for the junta’s anti-reform constitutional committee. Recently he supported the junta’s ban on political activities associated with the 6th October 1976 events at Thammasart University where he also works. He claimed that such activities were “divisive”. In other word people should not be allowed different views. He says everyone must love the country. In an interview with Isara news agency, he praised the king for “protecting democracy” and “ensuring that military coups did not wreck society and cause divisions”. In a book published by Thammasart University, he claimed that the king “had nothing to do with” the 6th October blood bath and he selectively quoted the king’s speech in 1976, making sure to omit the clear endorsement of the event and the coup that took place on the same day. Nakarin claims to be a “historian”.
Democracy will not grow out a military coup and reforms will not emerge from all the distortions and lies of the various pro-military academics. The military’s anti-reforms are designed merely to reduce the democratic space, freedom of expression and the right of any democratically elected government to put forward a clear manifesto at election time.