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Politicians shrug off reform plan set by junta

politics April 07, 2018 01:00

By THE NATION

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AS 20-YEAR-STRATEGY COMES INTO FORCE TODAY, DOUBTS RAISED ABOUT ITS IMPLEMENTATION



THE 20-year national reform strategy that officially comes into force today might not be able to shape the country in the junta’s vision as politicians obligated by the Constitution to implement the plan have dubbed it unrealistic.

Aimed at moving Thailand towards stability, prosperity and sustainability, the junta has mapped out a long-term plan – announced in the Royal Gazette yesterday – to reform 11 sectors including politics, administration, economics, judicial system, education, social, environment, public health and mass media.

There are no plans to reform the military, and the police reform was outside the scope of the 20-year national plan.

The military-sponsored charter, which was promulgated a year ago, 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.

‘Constitution amendment possible’

Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva said yesterday the reform plan and the Constitution fostering it were both impractical. While the emphasis of the reform was purportedly to help reduce corruption, he pointed out it was weak and unhelpful.

The Democrat leader said that after the election, attempts would be made to amend the Constitution.

However, he admitted that amendments would not be easy as they would also need approval from the junta-appointed Senate unless the people put pressure on them. The law on process and procedure of reform was promulgated in August last year and the authorities formed committees to draft the reform agenda for 11 sectors.

While the government claimed that the plan was made after sufficient public hearings, observers said it was very rare to see people participate in mapping out the national reform strategy over the past months.

Political reform is one of the most-watched agendas and is seen as a key element in shaping the country’s future. In the political reform plan seen yesterday, the junta blamed politicians and political factions for conflicts over the past decades. “Political groups refer their legitimacy to power from different attitudes, beliefs and interpretations of democracy,” the paper said. “Elections are not free and fair. Politicians lack ethics and morality. They do not represent the people’s interests. They are corrupt. Political parties are dominated by capitalists.”

As Western-style democracy is on the decline, eastern values would be more suitable for government, it said. “Political reform in Thailand has to be a good mixture of both Western democracy and eastern values, as well as Thai norms and culture,” it said.

The monarchy is the source of political legitimacy and the national spirit, it said, “therefore the coup-makers have to seek royal audience with the King to report the situation. The King will appoint the government leader and Cabinet to run the country.”

On the economic side, the reform embraces the “Thailand 4.0” vision of employing technology and innovation in accordance with the sufficiency economy philosophy. Pracharat – the coordination of big corporates and the bureaucracy – would be the major driving force for the economic reform, it said.

However, a new breed of young politicians who are preparing to enter the political fray in the coming election said the junta’s reform strategy was turning Thailand backward.

The chief of the newly formed Future Forward Party, Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, said his new-generation party would scrap the junta’s strategy if it managed to win the elections and form a government. The party wants to remove all of the junta’s legacy in Thai politics and move the country towards real democracy with people’s participation, he said in an interview with The Nation.

According to the strategy, the government has to allocate Bt130 billion to implement the reform agenda within five years. While most of the budget would be spent for reforms in the bureaucracy and administration, the plan did not specify the budget for mass media and energy reform.