Tuesday, November 12, 2019

A reform plan with no leg to stand on

Apr 07. 2018
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By The Nation

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The lack of backing from the people and politicians for the 20-year national strategy raises doubts about its success

The two institutions most in need of reform – the military and the police – fail to find any mention in the junta’s 20-year national reform strategy that officially came into force today.

Realistically, no one really believed that the ruling junta, who called themselves the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), could shape the country in line with their vision through this document. It’s like trying to legislate love; you can’t force a person to love someone if they don’t.

The same could be said about this romantic, half-baked national vision of the NCPO. They can’t force people to be the way they want them to be.

If they had done it right from the start, it might have been different. But instead, the Constitution 

they put together was not inclusive at all. 

They rushed through it with little concern for the reality that many people were against it. That’s not the way to put together a common vision for a nation.

Officially, the junta is trying to move Thailand towards stability, prosperity and sustainability. The long-term plan, announced in the Royal Gazette this past week, aims to reform 11 sectors, including politics, administration, economics, the judicial system, education, social, environment, public health and mass media. 

The military-sponsored charter makes it mandatory for governments after the election to implement the reform plan and failure to do so would make them liable to be impeached.

In a way, it’s like putting a gun to someone’s head. But whether this current crop of junta have the guts to pull the trigger is something that remains to be seen.

A likely scenario is a Thai bureaucracy dragging its feet. If you think Thai bureaucrats are slow and tardy, you haven’t seen anything yet. This time around, they will have a reason to be slow and tardy.

Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva said they would push for amendments to the current Constitution. 

But it will not be easy because no one knows how the military-appointed Senate will behave.

Abhisit should have been more vocal at the time the junta proposed the idea. But instead, he chose to play it safe and did not raise any objections.

The plan for this legislation did not have sufficient public hearings or people participation in mapping out the national reform strategy, as the government had claimed.

Like the Constitution they fostered, the junta didn’t like the politicians and designed the national strategy along that line.

The junta blamed politicians for the political crisis that has gripped Thailand for more than a decade now. But they think they can come in and hijack the system and fix it with legislation and a 20-year strategy that was put together without public participation.

In short, no one feels they own the process. 

Many feel that it was designed for and by the military for their own purposes. While they just pay lip service to transparency, they care more about cementing their place in Thailand’s national politics than improving the state of the country itself.

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