Debate reveals all that's wrong in Thai politics

national November 27, 2012 00:00

By Avudh Panananda
The Nation

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At yesterday's censure debate, Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva was seen as a Ken doll and likewise Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra was Barbie, as the two took turns to demonstrate democracy at work.


Under democratic rule, the two were paired up to complete the system of checks and balances.
On Day 2 of the three-day censure, the jury was still out on the verdict. It might take years to draw a conclusion on alleged corruption involving Defence Minister Sukampol Suwannathat and Deputy Interior Minister Chatt Kuldiloke.
The grilling of Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yoobamrung boiled down to an exchange of sharp words instead of shedding light on his job performance.
At tomorrow’s censure vote, the government is certain to survive, although the opposition’s censure on graft violations will not be in vain.
In the coming months, Sukampol and Chatt will be busy trying to clear their names with the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC).
It is ironic the two got their jobs at the blessing of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra and are now at risk of impeachment due to allegations that Thaksin whimsically decided to reward certain cronies with lucrative contracts.
Based on evidence brought up by the opposition, Sukampol and Chatt did not enrich themselves from the irregularities, but allegedly rigged the procurement rules to favour those close to Thaksin or his family, including his sister Yaowapha Wongsawat.
The NACC is expected to take years to complete the graft probes on the two before recommending whether to prosecute and impeach them or drop the charges. By that time, the government might have changed several times and the NACC ruling for the two would be just a footnote in history.
The highlight of the censure debate was, however, the Abhisit-Yingluck match. 
In his attacks and her rebuttals, Abhisit and Yingluck inadvertently brought up some underlying reasons pinpointing what has gone wrong in Thai politics.
Toward the end of his remarks, Abhisit said he pitied Yingluck for being unable to exert her leadership and for being under the shadow of her brother Thaksin and other relatives.
He reminded the prime minister that politics is not back on track for two reasons – first, she mixed up the country’s interests with those of her family’s, and second, she allowed the issue of her brother Thaksin’s amnesty to persist instead of solving it.
In one of her scripted speeches delivered at Parliament, Yingluck rebutted Abhisit on issues related to her job performance, particularly the rice-pledging scheme and the alleged inaction to root out corruption.
But she completely ignored Abhisit’s pity. She also refused to comment on two issues – Thaksin’s amnesty and her Shinawatra clan’s meddling in contracts awarded by the government.
What Abhisit brought up and what Yingluck ignored should make it clear why Thailand has been stuck in the political quagmire for so long.
The censure has brought to light why the political divide seems unsolvable. If the main opposition party speaks and the ruling party opts to turn deaf and vice versa, then political normalcy will remain a far-fetched goal.
The survival or sinking of a government in the motion of no confidence is meaningless if the coalition and opposition lawmakers remain incommunicado with one another.

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