January 30, 2014 00:00
By Pornpimol Kanchanalak
The government, by standing firm on the February 2 election date, has snuffed out the chance of Thailand seeing the light of peace and compromise anytime soon.
To put the government’s obstinacy in perspective, one must recall that a day before Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra met with the Election Committee (EC) on Tuesday, the EC had met with eight major political parties to discuss the pros and cons of postponing the election. After a lengthy discussion, the majority of participants agreed that given the current volatile political environment, a postponement would be the safer option.
It is important to remind ourselves that postponing voting does not mean that democracy is placed in jeopardy. On the contrary, an election with only one party – the ruling Pheu Thai – dominating the ballot box, and without the participation of the opposition, is not democracy. Instead it is merely an election by the ruling party, for the ruling party. Such a political monopoly casts doubt on the future democratic landscape of Thailand.
To make matters worse, the government’s decision to go ahead with the scheduled election comes despite the EC’s honest disclosure that it lacks the full number of 50,000 people needed to man the polling stations, with more members of the supervising committees expected to resign. This is not what democracy is all about.
Worst of all, the government knows full well that a February 2 election will not produce a functioning legislative branch, as the required 95 per cent of MPs will not be elected.
Yet, the caretaker Yingluck administration has the audacity to say it will keep running elections until the forum is achieved. It also has the chutzpah to estimate it will take about a year to accomplish this.
The government also expects to perform in its caretaker role for an indefinite period. That means that for the next year, Thailand could be without legislative or administrative branches of the government to create and implement policies.
This is madness: a cynical, self-serving and malicious action on the part of this government against the country.
It is as infuriating as seeing the Foreign Minister reading verbatim, on national television, US government statements on our current national affairs. Since when has Thailand become a spokesman or minion of Washington? As to why it matters so much what the US thinks, no sensible person will have an answer.
Meanwhile, more innocent lives have been lost while voicing their conscience or performing their duty. Yet, the government has shown no remorse. If the disease came from the People for Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC), there has been absolute silence on the part of government, as if their lives did not matter. The police and military have been put in the extremely awkward position of “damned if you do, damned if you don’t”. As government officers, they have a duty to obey orders. They do not seem to count much as far as this government is concerned.
To this caretaker administration, nothing matters as much as its own vested interests, and everybody else can be left to stew in their own juice. And we can be assured nothing will stop it from stooping lower, to a level no leadership or government in the history of Thailand has ever stooped before. All is validated by its perceived God-given sense of entitlement, legitimacy and self-righteousness.
It does not matter to this government what happens to the Thai economy. It does not matter how many hand-to-mouth workers will have to be laid off because of the business slowdown. It does not matter how much more divisive Thailand will get. The power of the ruling party reigns most supreme.
This is not to say that the PDRC is doing everything right. But for crying out loud, they are unarmed. They only want the country to be reformed before an election is held, because people can no longer tolerate the blatant graft and fraud that have been eating up the national wealth in broad daylight under the cloak of so-called democracy. They do not trust this government to oversee the elections. They do not disrespect the right of others to go to vote, (though the bottom-line is what good will that do?). What we have in Thailand is not democracy in the true sense of the word. Today, we have no strong and viable check-and-balance mechanisms, no laws that will deal a blow to corrupt officers and put them to jail, to send a clear message that such practices shall not be tolerated by the public. As of today, there is no branch or sector of government that cannot be bought or sold if the price is right. It is time that the country went through a rigorous process of reform to make changes for the better.
Sadly, the current political conflict and violence could have been ended months ago, was it not for the fact that the government continued to up the ante rather than looking for ways and means to a compromise and dialogue.
Now, the government’s decision to forge ahead with an election that is nothing short of absurd means Thailand has reached the point of no return. Blood will be spilled. Fingers will be pointed. Where we are heading is a matter only for mere ordinary mortals like us to worry about.
The government might think it is standing tall. But it is not. The blame shall be placed squarely on its shoulder, particular those of prime minister Yingluck. She may have been able to duck the bullets many times before, claiming she did not know what was going on as she only chaired the committees that got projects rolling. But this time, she cannot hide behind smiles to escape the blame.
As head of government, even if only figuratively, the buck stops with her.