Citizens powerless against guns – but we can control politicians
I fully agree with Vint Chavala that “politicians are as much to blame as soldiers in making democracy unattainable in Thailand thus far”. However, I respectfully submit that no matter how unspeakable our politicians are, they are no worse that the voters who chose them, and who failed to constantly monitor them once in office.
For example, everybody is vehemently against corruption, yet the Pheu Thai government’s rice scheme involved extensive corruption, as revealed in court, and it is uncontested that Thaksin hid billions in assets under the names of his maid, driver, etc, evading taxes in his asset-concealment case. Meanwhile during the current government, PM Prayut failed to move DPM Prawit to an inactive post while probing the latter’s 21 ultra-luxury watches, allegedly worth Bt36 million, and the head of the National Anti-Corruption Commission failed to recuse himself from the investigation despite having been appointed by the accused. True, to its credit, the Democrat Party’s Abhisit has a clean reputation – but his signal “achievement” when last elected to office was successfully evacuating heads of state from the 2009 Asean Summit in Pattaya when evicted by unarmed red shirts from an easily defended hotel.
On the other hand, of the 105 parties registered for the current election, those with new ideas, such as Future Forward or that of Pol General Pisut Temiyavet, haven’t gained enough traction to form a core of the next government.
Civil society should play a major part in educating voters and empowering them to monitor elected officials after taking office. For example, faculties of economics or chambers of commerce could host debates and town halls between leading candidates or officeholders on business affairs. Parent-teacher associations could do likewise for educational reform, and faculties of political science should cover issues in, say, decentralisation, reform of the civil service, and role of the military in a democracy.
Voters should know from our 20 or so coups d’etat that the military is not a source of lasting political solutions, and learn to reach out to those with other opinions to work together towards overarching goals – for the buck stops on your desk, dear reader, and mine.