Much has been said about Thailand's "Friday the 13th" situation, but I doubt many of you have seen the movie and its sequels.
What do those films have in common, apart from plenty of blood and gore? Well, each of them involves clueless, carefree teenagers laughing and joking their way to gruesome deaths.
In a way, the above is my disclaimer. In case you think this article is taking a very serious issue too lightly, consider me one of the young fools who is unaware that Jason is waiting in the woods with his long knife. A lot of bad things could happen after this Friday, when the Constitution Court delivers a ruling on whether the government’s push to enact a new charter is legitimate. Maybe this is no time to make fun of anything but, you know, I can’t help it.
People say that odd things always happen before a massive disaster strikes. If you believe that, pack and run. Chavalit Yongchaiyudh has shown a great deal of common sense. If that isn’t a strange phenomenon, I don’t know what is. To add to Chavalit’s unexplained burst of rationality, House Speaker Somsak Kiatsuranond has lost his sensibility by proclaiming in front of many – including someone secretly armed with a recording device – that he had managed to convince Thaksin Shinawatra to go slow in his attempt to re-grab full power.
Somsak is a Pheu Thai MP to begin with, so to assume that he must be neutral even in private is pure wishful thinking. What is absolutely incredible is his assumption that it was safe to speak, even privately, about Thaksin waiting a few more months so he could “stomp” his opponents later. The House speaker needs a beginner’s course on social media immediately.
Chavalit, to me, has asked the most relevant questions concerning the whole charter brouhaha. He has criticised both the opposition Democrats and the ruling Pheu Thai Party, but he’s wondering why something can be a threat to democracy in a country that has no democracy in the first place. “The red shirts have been demanding democracy and the yellow shirts have been denouncing parliamentary dictatorship, which tells me we as a nation don’t have democracy in the first place,” he said.
If that is profound, his next question is sharp. How come a Parliament born out of a Constitution so abhorred it has to be scrapped and a new one has to be created thinks it (Parliament) represents the Thai public in demanding a brand new charter? Chavalit follows that up with a punch line: “There will be no winners, only losers. And the biggest one is our country.”
On Monday, the red shirts gave the Constitution Court judges some roses. Apparently that was not enough of a goodwill gesture, because reports came out on the same day that some of the receivers were adding soldiers to their security details that initially included only police. In Thailand, when someone gives you roses, accept them, but the next logical thing to do is duck.
“I pity the Constitution Court,” Chavalit said. That is his only understatement this time. This is the court that acquitted Thaksin Shinawatra in 2001, to the ultimate delight of the red shirts; dissolved his political parties in 2007 and 2008, to the red shirts’ extreme dismay; and is now poised to decide whether to sanction a process that would in effect whitewash him in the future.
To put it in the simplest layman’s term, the court will on Friday the 13th rule whether the current charter allows itself to be dissolved. The judges’ decision will have far-reaching repercussions and could turn out to be a self-execution order. If the process of writing a new charter is given the court’s green light, the court’s future status will no longer be guaranteed. In fact, the future of all “independent bodies” designed to check and balance politicians’ power will not be guaranteed. Some say that to foretell doom for the independent organisations demonstrates big bias or paranoia. Which may be true, but for the Constitution Court, there’s only one way to find out.
What is scarier – a Constitution Court bombshell now or a Constitution Drafting Assembly roaming free in the future? If what Thais are experiencing is scripted after scary movies, we will have to keep guessing how this will all end, and if this coming Friday is to yield some clues, they may be misleading. And don’t forget the indispensable cliche of this genre of films: the villain never dies.