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Vital issues left out of 'reform' debate, activist says

NO REAL national reform can take place without introducing a progressive tax system, amending the lese majeste law and introducing a social net, Patchanee Kamnak, a key member of the local leftist group Turn Left, said yesterday.

However, any reform proposal cannot be legitimate until it is approved by a national referendum, she said.

Progressive tax on income, land and inheritance is vital for a reformed Thailand.

On freedom of expression, at least an amendment if not the outright abolition of the draconian lese majeste law is imperative, she said.

It's shocking that none of the major groups talking about national reform today even mentions these issues, she said.

"The two issues are an indicator of whether the talk about reform is genuine or not," she told The Nation.

Progressive taxes will address social and economic disparities, as more income from taxes can help fund social welfare programmes.

"How can we talk about distribution of income if we don't talk about taxes?" she asked.

She's also dismayed to see the same old faces of senior NGO workers who supported the September 19, 2006 coup now dominating the reform discussion on the side of the anti-government People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC).

These people caused a lot of problems when they supported the 2006 coup and have never expressed any sense of contrition. One of the coup supporters and later a junta-appointed cabinet member who's now active as a key person within the PDRC reform discussion is Poldej Pintratheep, who led a reform brainstorming session on Saturday among medical professionals for the PDRC.

Poldej was trained as a physician and is a disciple of influential social pundit Prawase Wasi.

Patchanee said judicial reform is also a key issue, but no one seems to have the audacity to touch the courts, which are viewed by her group and other critics as highly politicised and partisan.

Such issues have to be fought out in public debate and through a plebiscite.

"I don't think the conservatives will easily yield on these issues," she added.


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