A debate on Thai democracy

your say July 24, 2017 01:00

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I have no issue in principle with JC Wilcox’s thesis about democracy in Thailand.



However, there are identifiable lacunae in JC’s presumably well-meaning missive that don’t really grasp the essence of the matter. Specifically, if you are going to open a narrative on democracy, it’s helpful to inform the reader of what it is.

There are a number of decent definitions, for example: “A system of government by the whole population or all the eligible members of a state, typically through elected representatives.” (Oxford dictionaries) For me, the operative word here is “elected”; not a word one would use to describe the current government and those damnable tanks on the lawn. If one were to look at the etymology of the word one may find the Greek words demos and cratos, or “people power” in plain English. There are some variations, but that is the essence of the term for me.

What we can establish about democracy is that it cannot take root automatically, nor can it be imposed, for example what the West has allegedly tried – and failed – to do in the notoriously democracy-averse Middle East. It cannot mature overnight. Hence, three generations or so of Thais can’t assume that democracy is the de rigueur political system here, when it plainly is not.

JC offers us this thought about the current state of play: “The Pheu Thai Party and the ... [UDD] claim to be against dictatorship and for democracy while campaigning for the return of Thaksin Shinawatra or a Shinawatra family member to govern the country. That is effectively a dictatorship.” A “dictatorship” obtained at the ballot box? I refer the reader to the aforementioned word “elected”. This is of course worthy of further debate. JC is, however, right about the failure of the military and their imposed version of governance.

Dr Frank