The reprieve afforded by Songkran came and went much too fast. Now we return to our evermore-acute anxiety over the country's political and economic state of affairs. Without a fully functioning government for more than four months, Thailand has been sha
In the next 30 days, the Constitutional Court will rule whether Premier Yingluck Shinawatra abused her power in removing Thawil Pliensri from his post as National Security Agency chief to make way for her relative to take the top job at the National Police Department.
A judgement against her could mean a “pink slip” for the caretaker prime minister, reprising Donald Trump’s catchphrase in his TV “reality” show “The Apprentice” -– “You are Fired!”
Then, Yingluck has another case to answer at the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) over her alleged dereliction of duty in the rice-pledging scam, which puts to shame all previous political frauds in Thai history.
Both the PDRC (the People’s Democratic Reform Committee) and the UDD (United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship) are bracing for the end game, as the two verdicts loom. We don’t need to believe the dire predictions surrounding the appearance of the rare astronomical phenomenon known as the Blood Moon on April 15 to know that we are in deep trouble. No matter how fair and just the two verdicts are, chances are high that not everybody will be completely thrilled.
Already, the UDD has issued threats against the two independent organisations not to rule against their liking. Meanwhile, the PDRC leader has told the protesters to cross the T’s and dot the I’s for the judgement day.
Lost in the eye of this twister is the notion of the sanctity of the law, which must be respected regardless of any side’s liking. Thailand cannot be a bona fide democratic nation unless we are willing to uphold and respect the law and the ruling of the courts.
In the United States – arguably the world’s oldest constitutional democracy – there was a time when the Supreme Court, not the people, elected the president. The case involved the 2000 presidential elections contested by Al Gore and George W Bush. The infamous “hanging chads” in Florida – where the number of votes was decisive – made the country more aware that polls were a very messy business in more ways than one could count. In that election, Bush was declared the winner despite the fact that Al Gore received more votes (48.4 per cent) than Bush (47.9 per cent).
But riots did not break out. Like or dislike the Supreme Court Justices and their decisions, Americans realise and accept that the court is not final because it is infallible; but rather it is infallible because it is final.
In an eloquent New York Times op-ed piece on Monday headed “A Long Obedience”, David Brook pointed out that laws “tame the ego and create habits of deference by reminding you of your subordination to something permanent”. He contended that America’s founding fathers understood that in creating a social order, the first people who need to be bound down by the laws are the leaders themselves, and that just as leaders need binding, so do regular people.
America has been through a Civil War (1861-65) which saw more Americans perish than in all other wars the country has fought combined. President Abraham Lincoln, in his short yet powerful 1863 Gettysburg address, declared that the country must never forget why so many men had to die so the country could move forward. And the American people have never forgotten. The two shades of stone on the Washington Monument (one shade at the base built before the civil war, a different one on top, built after the war was over) remind the 4th of July revelers every year of the long brutality of that war, so it shall not be repeated.
The Justice of the US Supreme Court is nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate. But once confirmed, they know their only consecrated duty is to uphold the laws, not to bend the laws to the liking of the people who nominated and confirmed them. Of course, the president and the Senate can tip the composition of the Supreme Court to suit their political philosophy, yet they know that once in office, the Supreme Court Justice does not answer to them. The public may disagree with the Supreme Court’s decision, and may stage protests. Hundreds and thousands of legal cases and petitions may be filed with the Supreme Court, arguing for the reversal of its decision. But no Americans have entertained the thought of starting a civil war to get their way. Lincoln’s words still resonate.
Siam at the end of the Ayutthaya period was in turmoil. The root cause of the disunity was the lack of a legal governing framework to deal with the prevailing situation. King Rama I (1737-1809), after establishing the new capital, devoted all his effort to reforming the political and legal framework and mechanisms. In 1804, he created the “Laws of the Three Seals”, which became the law of the land until King Rama V (1868-1910) embarked on another major reform of the legal system, which helped the country avoid falling under the yoke of aggressive Western colonialism.
If Americans can still remember the pain and suffering of their forefathers during the Civil War and have learned to respect the sanctity of the law, why can Thais not remember the disintegration of Ayutthaya, and learn not to repeat it?