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Yingluck's reform roadblock must be cleared away

Thailand's political crisis has deepened. There are two conflicting courses: reform first, then a general election, or a general election first, then reform.

The Suthep-led people's movement would like Yingluck Shinawatra and her caretaker government to step down without conditions. This would pave the way for the appointment of an interim government. A people's council would be formed to lay the foundation for Thailand's political, economic and social reform. Then a fresh election would be held. For, without reform, money politics would return to haunt Thailand, bringing back rampant corruption. The depth and breadth of Suthep Thaugsuban's reform movement remains uncertain, but his message is clear: we need measures to overhaul police bureaucracy, decentralisation, and to rid our system of corruption.

Yingluck has dissolved Parliament to release political pressure. Millions of Thais have taken to the streets to demand the removal of her corrupt government from power. It is an open secret that the fugitive Thaksin Shinawatra still runs the country via his nominee government. His sister Yingluck has insisted on maintaining her power during the transition ahead of the February 2 general election. To counter the protesters' proposal, she has come up with a reform body mainly comprising military strongmen and bureaucrats. She resorted to an Office of the Prime Minister's order to set up the body. But this move is legally questionable, as a caretaker government is prohibited by law from taking any measures which would have a binding effect on the next government.

The present show of "people's power" is unprecedented. Never in Thai history have millions of people come out onto the streets, unified by a battle for justice and to end corruption. Transcending all political ideology, they are simply demanding fair play and restoration of the country's integrity. On the other side are greedy politicians whose power-lust and desire for financial gain has hijacked democracy.

The people's message is powerful. They have lost all trust in this caretaker government. But their calls have fallen on deaf ears, with Thaksin, Yingluck, Pheu Thai and their cronies seeking only to polarise politics for personal gain.

The Election Commission (EC) is following the government's directive and proceeding with the application process in spite of mounting protest against February's election. Yesterday police used tear gas and rubber bullets to fend off protesters besieging the EC's draw of party-list numbers at the Thai-Japanese Stadium.

In fact, the Yingluck government had already lost its legitimacy. It should have been declared void when key members publicly declared their defiance of the Constitutional Court ruling against a parliamentary move for an all-elected Senate. This is an act of treason. The Constitution is the highest law of the land and the Constitutional Court's ruling is binding on all government agencies.

Any Thai may lodge a complaint of treason with the Constitutional Court against the key government members, including the heads of Parliament. Yingluck and her caretaker government would then likely be stripped of power, paving the way for an interim government to undertake the reform process. There is a way out of this crisis. And we should take it in a hurry.


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