Giles Ji Ungpakorn
No one with any democratic principles or half a brain believed that Prayut’s military coup in 2014, or the previous judicial and military coups since 2006, would somehow “solve” Thailand’s political crisis. They were all reactionary measures taken in order to decrease the democratic space and to prevent the return to power of Taksin-sponsored political parties through free and fair elections. But even in their own terms, the conservatives who backed this destruction of democracy, have failed to impose a settlement which serves their interests.
The latest deadlock is over the junta’s new draft constitution, written by veteran anti-democrat Meechai Ruchupan. A whole host of pro-democracy organisations and social movements have condemned this undemocratic charter. It is even too much for various middle-class individuals and parties which backed past military coups. If put to a free and fair referendum it would be rejected. This is why the junta has prohibited any public campaigning against this terrible document. The “Electoral Commission” has threatened that any critics of this dictator’s charter face 10 years in prison and a life time ban on voting rights. Soldiers are being sent into communities in order to “explain” to people the “good points” of the charter. People are still being summonsed to “attitude changing sessions” in military camps. Meechai has threatened that if his draft charter is not accepted the next version will be “even more oppressive”. Imagine!! This is from the mouth of someone who claims to be leading “political reform”!!
But imposition of this charter against the wishes of the population will cause further resentment and anger against the junta.
It is worth remembering that the military and the corrupt kangaroo courts have overthrown democratically elected governments 4 times in the last ten years. They have written 4 so-called “constitutions” or draft constitutions. They have shot down over a hundred unarmed pro-democracy demonstrators in cold blood. They have detained more and more pro-democracy activists and fitted up many on lèse majesté charges. They have allowed violent right-wing thugs to roam the streets with impunity, providing assistance to those wishing to overthrow elected governments and also wrecking the 2014 elections. Yet the conservatives have failed miserably in their attempts to change the democratic attitude of the majority of the population.
Added to this are the various scandals. Military corruption is rife and attempts to expose it have been met with repression. The latest scandal is the reversal by the Appeal Court of the reason for dissolving Taksin’s Thai Rak Thai party (TRT) back in 2007. This was originally decided by the Constitutional Court as a way of justifying the military coup which took place a few months earlier. The latest decision by the appeal court overturns this decision due to lack of evidence of any wrong-doing by TRT. It also throws into question the banning from politics of the executive members of the party. It also throws into question the processes used to overthrow the Somchai Wongsawat and Samak Suntarawet governments in order to allow the military to appoint Abhisit Vejjajiva as an unelected Prime Minister in 2008. But nothing significant will happen as a result of all this because many years have passed.
The conservatives cannot come to terms with their failure to win over the majority of the population. All they know is how to use repression and violence to have their way. But violence and repression will not endear them to most citizens. So the deadlock continues and this deadlock is the only excuse that the junta have for staying in power.
The latest reactionary proposal from the junta is to have a two stage constitution. The first elections would elect some MPs to sit alongside junta appointed ones and the junta would remain in power. This, according to the anti-reformists would be a “good balance between democracy and stability”. After that, maybe, democratic elections could be held if conditions allow, but no doubt a supervisory role for the junta and its appointees would remain. If this proposal is put into practice it would prolong the life of the junta by at least another 5 years if not longer. In response to this ex-Prime Minister Chawalit Yongjaiyut exclaimed that another 5 months of the junta would be intolerable.
Right now neither the pro-democracy side, nor the reactionary conservatives are strong enough to break this deadlock and win. For the pro-democracy side, this is because of a failure to build an effective mass movement, something which I have often highlighted in the past. But a situation of political deadlock cannot last forever.