By PRAVIT ROJANAPHRUK
Experts believe tenure could exceed people's expectations
PRIME MINISTER General Prayut Chan-o-cha’s government may stay in power longer than most people expect, a leading scholar has predicted.
Chulalongkorn University political scientist Thitinan Pongsudhirak said: “This interim period could be longer – longer than most of us might think.”
Thitinan was talking to a symposium at the German Embassy on Wednesday evening, when academics met to talk about the current political situation.
He added that there might be an unintended consequence as a result. While he did not specify what that might be, he said it was clear that the military was trying to turn back the clock on politics.
“In terms of its [the military] culture, it is retrograde. Their culture is essentially retro in time although on one hand they wish to have modernity in line with the 21st century,” he said.
“The Army is not set up to rule in the globalised 21st century. I’m afraid that the interim [period of military governance] could be indefinite.”
Thitinan said the majority of Thais were still supportive of the military and few protests had been observed, but he said it should be recognised that Thailand is owned by the people and not the few.
Thammasat University political scientist Prajak Kongkirati said Thai society had not yet managed |to debunk the myth of a military coup being a tool to end a political crisis.
Prajak said the reliance on military coups was dangerous for society in the long run as Thailand would become trapped in a cycle of coups.
“The current coup did not fulfil the aspiration of the People’s Democratic Reform Committee but it fulfilled the aspiration of the military elites,” he said.
The symposium was organised by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation in honour of its outgoing resident director Marc Saxer, who warned that the political crisis was only the tip of an iceberg – an underlying transformation crisis facing society.
Although there was a semblance of calm and stability after the coup last year, the reality was different, Saxer argued.
“A coup d’etat is a quick fix that closes the system in order to gain short-term stability. It seems as if everything returned to stability,” said Saxer. “We’re in a vertigo of change but a new order has not yet emerged.”
He said economically Thailand faced a middle-income trap while politically, MPs and Parliament must be made accountable and Parliament’s decisions must be inclusive.
Thai society, he said, needed a new social contract that included horizontal decision-making processes.
He acknowledged, however, it would take a while before the |transformation crisis was transcended.
Many Thais, he said, still adhered to a Buddhist cosmology based on a belief in good people.
The conservative middle class eventually turned to the military when that was combined with the fact that the majority of voters were rural poor and deemed to have been manipulated by populist policies under Thaksin and Yingluck Shinawatra.