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Turning Thailand around

National reform facilitator Poldej Pinprateep talks about the pressing need for change

He was appointed Deputy Minister of Social Development and Human Security during the post-coup Surayud Chulanont administration and today Poldej Pinprateep is a key facilitator in the national reform forum held by the anti-government People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC).

He also serves as the secretary of the Social Network for Thailand Reform, a group of like-minded people from 185 various professions that was formed in January.

Poldej recently agreed to sit down with The Sunday Nation to talk about the controversial reform process

What are your expectations?

The PDRC is regarded as the leader in the push to change the state's power. They have the most potential. There is also another group called the Reform Now Network (RNN), which is separately pushing for reform although they're pushing it through the government.

I helped them facilitate and we trust one another. I am an advocate for reform and should the PDRC fail, I am fine with seeing the other side executing reform as well.

How concerned are you that ordinary PDRC supporters have very limited participation and find it hand to air their views and make proposals at the PDRC reform forum?

Theoretically speaking, the bigger participation by the people, the better. However, we are in an immediate stage and need to frame the big issues first. Right now, there are no conclusions on specific reform proposals.

On electoral reform, for example, a number of different models are being put on the table, namely those of France and Germany and we really need to discuss and review the political structure. It's impossible to do that in an hour or two of talks. Ordinary people will have more say after this stage. We have to give the opportunity to those who have been handling these issues for a long time to talk first but for ordinary participants, there's always a time constraint.

Are you concerned that pro-government red shirts are not involved in the process and are in fact opposed to the PDRC's reform initiative?

Even if they're invited they won't come. When the reforms are about to be introduced, it will be imperative that we make them participate.

Some invited speakers at the PDRC forum made it clear that major reform issues need to be endorsed through a national referendum. PDRC secretary general Suthep Thaugsuban, on the other hand, is insisting that an unelected government that will replace the caretaker Yingluck Shinawatra administration should carry out reform. Can you clarify this.

As far as I have gathered from speaking with Suthep, he envisions a two-step reform process with democratic and political reform to be carried out first by an unelected government followed by an election that would install an elected government to push for longer term reform. The latter will require amending the charter and a referendum.

Why do you think Thais cannot deliberate together for a common future?

For the past three years, in fact up until the advent of the PDRC, discourse about national reform was limited to a small group of people numbering in thousands if not ten of thousands. At the grass roots level, people who are interested in reform, say on rights to manage their own natural resources in the community, are composed of both red shirts and yellow shirts and they don't argue with one another when talking about reform.

At the national political level, we must acknowledge that the PDRC have led the talks about reform while the red shirts remain reluctant. If you want to talk about reform with red shirts, they won't talk with you. We now hope that if and once the change of government takes place, the red shirts will participate in the process. We must apply the principle of inclusiveness.

Don't you think the opposition Democrat Party should adopt the PDRC's reform proposals and use these as their policy platform to compete in the next election?

Yes I do think they should and I hope that is what will happen. But we don't know what they will decide. If I were the leader of the Democrat Party, I would highlight the reform agenda so if the party wins, it can push for reform. If it loses, then much will depend on the situation at that time.

There's no guarantee that the PDRC will accept the recommendations of the invited speakers at the forum. All I can say is that if they don't, I'm will continue to push my agenda through my organisation.


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