Political autonomy is not part of the equation

Political autonomy is not part of the equation

Political autonomy is not part of the equation News, Southeast Asia, Thailand
September 1, 2018

Thailand’s junta chief General Prayut Chan-o-cha said that political restrictions would be eased to allow political parties to conduct political activities – limited and obviously closely-monitored activities. That is once the charter-mandated bill on the election of members of parliament and the other bill on the selection of senators are promulgated.

For those inexperienced with Thailand, since the 2014 coup, all legislative system and institutions are controlled by the ruling military elites.

In The Name Of Broken Promises

Unsurprisingly, especially within Thai society, this changed hours after the announcement. Flip-flop politics, and not to mention the numerous broken promises of the junta, are common especially with the absence of institutionalized accountability and transparency.

As reported by Khaosod English:

Not today! Deputy junta leader Gen Prawit Wongsuwan said it will take a few days to reach agreement, but it will go into immediate effect.

The abrupt reversal of statements show that the junta is unwilling, or at the very least unprepared, to spearhead any reforms that would enable a free and fair election. A junta-imposed restriction that prohibits public gatherings of more than five people without official approval effectively means political parties can’t prepare for elections. The internet is also off-limits, as a ban is in effect that gags political parties from campaigning.

Political Parties

“There is a discrimination between the new political parties [that can] do anything, and the old parties, who can do nothing,” Chusak Sirinil, legal adviser of the Pheu Thai Party, says, adding the biggest problem for the Pheu Thai is that it “cannot hold meetings with members in the provinces”.

“The NCPO used its power to suppress the public who have political views that differ from its own,” the Future Forward Party said in a statement, referring to the junta by its official name, the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO).

“The results of these actions have impacted and damaged the image of the country.”

Strangling The Root

Prayut has grand agendas beyond any military takeovers in Thailand’s turbulent history.

Although there will be elections, the military will appoint a third of the legislature and effectively retain a final say on key policy decisions.

His perception of power may be empowered by self-glory and his belief that the country is never ready for a civilian government – basically that a democracy is destructive to Thailand.

Regardless of his political perceptions, there a network of cronies exists, ready to support the return of Prayut, but as an ‘outsider’ prime minister, a military avatar to supposedly save the country once again.

“Named after Prayut’s signature “Pracharat” reform program, Palang Pracharat leaders have openly said the party wants Prayut as its chief prime ministerial candidate. Political parties must put forward three premier candidates under new election laws. Prayut, who many earlier expected would vie for the premiership as an unaffiliated “outsider,” has not yet officially joined or endorsed the new party.

Suchart Chanataramanee, the party’s co-founder and Prayut’s military academy classmate, has boldly predicted Palang Pracharat will win the next polls, though not with a majority. If no party wins an outright majority, the military-appointed Senate lends its vote to picking the next premier, a scenario that favors Prayut.”

The Fantasy of Neutrality

Meanwhile army commander-in-chief General Chalermchai Sitthisart said he has instructed army personnel to be neutral and not to side with any of the rival political camps. Honestly, within the junta’s mechanics of vested interests, it is ridiculously impossible for the military to remain neutral. Thailand’s history has repeatedly proven that. As for them not being able to side with rival parties, that leaves the personnel with only choice – to vote for a pro-junta party. Go figure!

Prayut, who as army chief led a May 2014 coup after months of PDRC street protests, was appointed prime minister in August 2014 by a hand-picked legislature. Though it has been said, more accurately, that he appointed himself. I fear, that may just be a reality in next year’s election.



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