Only three pillars of hope left standing

opinion March 07, 2014 00:00

By Thanong Khanthong

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Thailand's political situation is now even more precarious. We have been gripped by crisis for the past four months, with confusion growing by the day. And nobody is daring to predict how or when the crisis will end. Let's review some of the earlier ass

First, many expected Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to cave in and submit her resignation as head of the caretaker government. This would pave the way for the appointment of an interim government, which would undertake the reform process. Yet, this has proved to be a fantasy. It is true, however, that the military gave Yingluck until February 21 to resign, saying it would not be held accountable for what might happen if she did not do so. That deadline passed two weeks ago. And Yingluck continues to enjoy chats with the military top brass. Any hope for her voluntarily resigning is a daydream.
Second, the February 2 election was held, but voter boycotts and complications mean it won’t be able to produce a result. The Constitution requires Parliament to convene 30 days after the election. But the Election Commission has yet to endorse even one single MP. The deadline for a new Parliament passed on Tuesday, amid a political vacuum but no serious incident. Yingluck is still hanging on as caretaker PM, unperturbed by the deadlock. And since Parliament cannot be convened, it cannot vote in a new prime minister within the 30-day deadline stipulated.
Third, the National Anti-Corruption Commission summoned Yingluck to appear before its panel on February 27 to defend herself against charges of negligence over the rice pledging scandal. If the NACC decides to press charges against Yingluck, she will automatically be stripped off her caretaker premiership. And if the NACC were to rule that Yingluck is guilty of neglecting her duties in overseeing the rice scheme, it would pass the case on to the Senate for impeachment proceedings and to the Supreme Court for criminal proceedings. Yingluck has so far declined to turn up at the NACC to hear the charges. The commissioners have given her until next Friday to do so. Once again, the whole situation is turning into a game of cat and mouse. And Yingluck can continue using delaying tactics almost indefinitely.
Finally, there were rumours that the military would eventually take matters into their own hands and end the crisis by launching a coup. Tanks and troops were redirected to the capital. But a coup has become a remote possibility.
The Occupy Bangkok protesters are getting more confused by the day. They have been told again and again that Yingluck would be ousted any day now. But that day has never arrived. Meanwhile, the number of deaths and injuries at rally sites has risen, though at a slower pace of late. For financial and security reasons, protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban has consolidated the main focus of the protest to a single site at Lumpini Park. However, Lung Pu Buddha Issara is still leading a protest group at the Chaeng Wattana rally site, and the Khor Por Thor Group in continuing with its Occupy Government House protest.
Elsewhere, red shirts have shown their true colours by calling for a separate state, which would combine the North and Northeast, with Chiang Mai as the new capital. Strangely, Yingluck chose to ignore the secessionists and go about her business without issuing any warning to her supporters. The police have been somewhat subdued after losing the battle on February 18 at Phan Fah Bridge, when they were routed by special forces. The courts subsequently declared that the government must not use force to disperse the protesters.
The traditional pillars of Thailand’s national security are:
1. The monarchy;
2. The government;
3. The justice system, including the judicial process, public prosecutors and police;
4. Parliament, which acts on behalf of the people;
5. The Thai people as a whole;
6. The military;
7. The economic wellbeing of the country.
We can leave out, for the time being, the government, the judiciary, Parliament, and economic wellbeing, because the ongoing crisis has rendered them obsolete. This leaves only the monarchy, the people and the military as the last pillars standing to save the country.