By THE NATION
DEMOCRACY HAS not been successful in becoming a true and sustainable system in Thailand because the approaches have strayed from democratic principles, a public seminar on “85th Anniversary of Democracy: Where should we go?” heard yesterday.
The “four questions” recently posed to the people by the prime minister concerning future elections and good governance once again suggested that the military-installed government will be here to stay and there is no guarantee the country will see democratic elections next year, the experts said.
The remarks were echoed by noted political science and law professors Siripan Nogsuan Sawasdee and Parinya Thewanaruemitkun, who said coup leader Prayut Chan-o-cha’s current sentiments, expressed through the four questions, suggested that the election promised for next year might not happen.
Prayut had posed the questions in his weekly programme a few weeks ago, asking whether the next election would lead to good politics and politicians and if it did not, what people would do about it.
Siripan, a political scientist from Chulalongkorn University, pointed out that some years back the trend had been for power to be quickly returned to the people after political disruption. However, this time, it has been more than three years since the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) took power and the chance of another election remained remote.
“Considering his four questions and the use of the Article 44, I would say there is a slim chance that there will be an election next year,” Siripan said.
The academic said that Thai democracy had been dubbed by foreign scholars as “a failed transition to democracy” due to approaches that always strayed from true democratic practices.
Parinya, a law professor from Thammasat University, also saw Prayut implying through his questions that a future elected government would not offer good governance and hence the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) should continue to keep control.
But governance was not about the means to power, Parinya said. Both the junta and civilian governments were equally vulnerable to abusing power, the professor explained. Good governance could only be secured by checks and balances and transparency, he said. But those mechanisms could not function under absolute rule, he added.
Charter drafter Chartchai na Chiangmai, on the other hand, said that the political culture had been centralised via the bureaucratic state, which had power over the people. Despite several reform attempts, the people had not been fully empowered because of political parties, which were weak and failed to balance the bureaucrats’ power, Chartchai said.
So, when writing the charter, which is the first and foremost requirement to lay a solid political foundation, the charter drafters ensured there was a compromise between conflicting desires of people in society. It could be called “restorative”, which may not be a full form of democracy but aimed to strengthen it in the long run, he explained.