Some Thais appear to have learnt nothing from history - as suggested by a group's calls for the royal appointment of a new premier to replace elected Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.
On Monday, the Thai Patriotic Front lodged a petition with the Bureau of the Royal Household seeking a new premier through an undemocratic method.
This is the second time in seven years this group of Thai people has sought an undemocratic solution to achieve its political ambitions. The first time was in 2006 when the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) staged a series of street protests to call for a royal-appointed leader to replace then PM Thaksin Shinawatra.
Unlike this time, the first movement was widely supported by many people, including the intellectual elite, who claimed they had fought for democracy their entire lives. The protest of yellow-shirt wearing people ended up with a military coup toppling Thaksin in September 2006.
Chaiwat Sinsuwong, leader of the anti-government Thai Patriotic Front, and about 1,000 followers, claimed they had 8,999,999 signatures of Thai citizens to back up their demands for a new premier. But that is not enough. Chaiwat and his group, which is actually a faction of the former PAD, has obtained no popular support for the crusade this time. Mainstream media, at least for now, has played down the movement, giving little space for news of its activities.
In fact, Chaiwat’s group staged a little-noticed protest at Sanam Luang for months. Initially, this group simply wanted the government to reject the International Court of Justice’s jurisdiction to interpret the 1962 Preah Vihear judgment. Nobody cared about their protest on that issue, either.
Thailand has had bad experiences already in trying to use undemocratic means for political solutions. This country remains in political difficulty these days because of this kind of thinking. The previous PAD movement and military intervention to oust Thaksin resulted in the ongoing political rift, instability and chaos over the past seven years.
The ultra-rightist Thai elite twisted all principles of law merely to serve their political objectives to get rid of Thaksin. All institutions, including the executive branch set up by the coup and led by well-wishing people, failed to work properly to lead Thailand in a progressive direction because they were just designed to prevent Thaksin and his clan from assuming power, not to run the country.
The rightist elite eventually failed to bar the Shinawatra clan from power because they took a wrong stance in their struggle with Thaksin.
Thaksin himself might not demonstrate good faith in democracy, but he took the right political stance towards democracy. His family members were brought to power by elections, not any other means.
Furthermore, undemocratic political settings and entities set up by a coup or special power cannot last long as they no longer fit the new world order. Most countries around the globe are heading toward democracy and prefer popular power as their source of legitimacy. Not many countries in the world feel comfortable with a government appointed by a ‘special power’, no matter how good it claims to be.
The simple way to have a new premier in a democratic world is to get people to elect one. Yingluck and her crew cannot stay in power forever. She has only two years left in office. If Chaiwat and his group really have a better choice and good policies to run the country, they should propose candidates for the people to choose in a coming general election.
Rather than sitting still in protest at Sanam Luang and waiting for special powers to grant the new prime minister, Chaiwat, the group and whoever disagrees or is disappointed with Yingluck and the Shinawatra clan, should campaign around the country for a good candidate and good policies for a premier to replace the PM.