THE MILITARY junta has failed to prepare the country to cope with the era of technological disruption, as it wasted its time mostly consolidating and perpetuating power and trying to weaken opponents, said prominent politician Khunying Sudarat Keyuraphan.
Rather than acting as the regulator, the junta is now a political actor competing with political parties in the field, she said. “While the authority restricts political parties’ activities, government leaders are spending the national budget for their own political campaign without accountability,” Sudarat said in an interview with The Nation.
Sudarat has been widely regarded as the Pheu Thai Party’s leader-in-waiting, but she herself has never expressed any intention to take the reins of the party. She is not a member of any political party since being banned from politics after the dissolution of the Thai Rak Thai in 2007.
Speaking in her personal capacity, Sudarat said the Pheu Thai, whose government was toppled by the military in the 2014 coup, would be a prime target for the junta to prevent its victory in the next election.
The junta had not only prohibited the party’s political activities, but also disturbed the normal lives of many key members, barring them from events where they could express their opinions against the junta, she said.
Like many other parties, the Pheu Thai would face a lot of obstacles in the election, if held next February, she said. With the changes in the election law and the Election Commission, it would be an uphill task for any party to win a majority in the election next time, she said. The electoral system is very complicated and difficult for voters to understand, and this would result in no single party getting a clear majority. Only parties or individual politicians who openly support the junta leaders in the election would benefit, Sudarat said. The National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), the official name of the junta, is enforcing its grand strategy to weaken other political parties and peoples’ participation in politics. The NCPO has already mapped out a 20-year national strategy and development plan and made it binding on the next government, she said.
“The problem is I see nothing in the so-called 20-year strategic plan that is useful for the people and the country’s development,” Sudarat said. “The politicians and the people have no alternative.”
The reforms, as claimed by the junta, over the past four years have only moved the country backward in every aspect when compared with other Asean countries, she said. “We used to be the frontrunner in Asean, now we are in the same boat as other backward countries – economically and politically,” she said.
Thailand is now facing economic disruption due to advances in technology but the authority has not prepared the country for such a change, she said. Disruptive information technology is now posing a threat to many sectors, notably banking, she said. “Our banks have to lay off thousands of skilled workers as financial technology has more capacity to run banks.”
“How is the government going to tackle unemployment when robots are replacing human workers in industry?” she asked. “Politicians should be thinking about these kinds of developments but we are not allowed to have any policy about this.”