By Pravit Rojanaphruk
The centralisation of political power is a very big problem facing Thailand and has led to many ills, including social and economic inequity, social guru Prawase Wasi warned yesterday.
Bangkok and the state have kept too much power in their hands – to the detriment of the provinces, he said at Sukosol Hotel to mark the end of the three-year, government-funded National Reform Assembly initiated by the Abhisit Vejjajiva government.
The centralisation of political power is now a century old and it has spawned many other problems, including the violence in the South.
“The deep South is a conflict between [political] centralisation and local culture,” he said.
Elsewhere, local authorities also failed to solve economic hardships or bring about justice in the handling of local resources due to the concentration of power in Bangkok. All this is threatening to turn Thailand into a failed state, said the 82-year-old critic.
Other problems such as corruption cannot be solved without embarking on structural reform. Without that, power will continue to be concentrated in the state based in Bangkok and political parties will do whatever they can to try to seize that power, leading to violent political struggles, including military coups.
“Severe animosity is ensured because the stakes are high and whoever takes control of the government will have all power because everything is centralised.”
The hierarchical nature of Thai society is such that many Thais love His Majesty the King as God, though such an attitude is not helpful, he said.
An active citizenry and self-governance by local communities can offer a solution.
Local people in 40 provinces are now drafting their own charter on how they can best manage themselves and transcend political divides.
“This is opening up space for ideas and society. This is something new,” he said.
Direct democracy, in which local communities try to solve problems by not relying on elections and elected representatives, is also becoming more common.
“There’ll be no need for vote buying because it’s a small community while 80 decades of parliamentary democracy has led to much hatred,” he said.
The National Reform Assembly, which involved more than 10,000 people over the past three years and cost Bt300 million of taxpayers’ money, has kick-started momentum towards self-reliance at the local level, he said. “The seeds for structural reform have been planted, towards a more just and less inequitable society,” he added.