The momentum is swinging toward reform

opinion January 30, 2014 00:00

By The Nation

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From all walks of life, the calls for change are growing louder; we should not let this opportunity go to waste

Amid increased violence in the run-up to Sunday’s election, and the prospect of more bloodshed during and after the vote, it’s reassuring that a large group of publicly respected figures has come out in support of efforts toward a peaceful transitional period of reform.
The newly formed Network of Servants for Thailand’s Peaceful Reform (NSTPR) comprises 185 prominent figures from various fields and professions. Among them are academics Thirayuth Boonmi and Professor Rapee Sagarik, veteran journalist Somkiat Onwimon, National Artist Naovarat Pongbaiboon, former irrigation chief Pramote Maiklad, ex-finance minister MR Pridiyathorn Devakula, and bankers Khunying Jada Wattanasiritham and Thawatchai Yongkittikul.
They are calling for reforms to prevent cronyism and corruption, overhaul politics and governance, improve the police and justice system, prevent business monopolies, and strengthen civil society. 
“Thailand stands amid a crisis, while our society is plagued with political cronyism and corruption, injustice and a media that is neither free nor fair,” said Poldej Pinprateep, the group’s coordinator and former deputy minister for social development and human security. “The government’s use of divisive propaganda has resulted in a total loss of confidence in our institutions of governance,” he added.
Some among the group might be viewed as sympathising with the anti-government People’s Democratic Reform Committee. A few have even appeared on protest stages to denounce the so-called Thaksin regime. But it is undeniable that all are prominent and widely respected members of society. 
This network is just the latest offshoot of a mass of people who want to see changes for the betterment of our country. Thailand has experienced more than a decade of bitter conflict that has damaged its standing in the international community and demoralised its citizens.
A major cause of the conflict is ruling politicians using their power for private benefit. Through cronyism, corruption and monopolistic business practises, they and their cohorts have milked public projects and state funds. This has caused growing resentment among a broad swathe of society. Deep-seated and widespread feelings of injustice finally boiled over with mass protests that have seen everyone from rural farmers to urban office workers, from showbiz stars to civil servants, out on the streets. 
The problem of corruption and self-serving governance exists partly because of the weak sense of citizenship and civil society in Thailand. Reform is also needed in this sphere, to help boost the system of checks and balances. Armed with a greater sense of belonging to and being responsible for society, citizens are more likely to act as watchdogs in the fight against corruption and injustice.
Social critic and NSTPR member Thirayuth Boonmi says many of the problems currently blighting the country – social conflict, institutional bias and a weakened checks and balances – are a legacy of Thaksin Shinawatra’s administration. 
Former Parliament president Meechai Ruchuphan, also a legal expert, blames the ongoing conflict on people in power tweaking the law to benefit themselves. Praising the efforts toward national reform, he has called on all groups to take part in the process in order to ensure its success. 
As the momentum swings behind national reforms, we should not let this opportunity go to waste. Self-serving individuals who stand to lose if there is change have blocked the road. Those of us who want a fairer society for all must unite in the push for reforms. These should be implemented sincerely by all those involved, with the goal of benefiting the country as a whole, and not just certain groups of people.