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What exactly does Suthep mean by political reform?

The elite and mainstream middle class in Bangkok badly need a real soul-searching model before proposing anything about political reform in Thailand.

No need to look back too far; just examine the 2006 military coup, which many of them strongly supported to rid Thailand of what they called the "Thaksin regime". The term "Thaksin regime" is not quite clear - but it could simply mean rule by the millionaire politician Thaksin Shinawatra as well as later by his clan and associates.

The 2006 military coup got rid of Thaksin and banned two sets of Thaksin's political associates who were executive members of the Thai Rak Thai and People's Power parties. All are now released from such restrictions, but the political problem in Thailand is still far from over.

The military coup-makers and the yellow-shirt middle class, who are now major driving forces for the whistle-blowing protesters in the capital, helped design the 2007 constitution and a number of organic laws and organisations. With the coup and new rules, they believed Thai politics would be clean and Thailand would be stable and strong.

Thai politics is never clean, stable and strong. What we have seen and Thai people have faced since 2006 are instability, protests, riots and bloodshed. People divide even deeper and fight each other all the time.

Contrary to what the elite wanted, the new election rules have been effective instruments in bringing Thaksin's associates into power. The 2007 Constitution is not better than the 1997 charter scrapped by the coup. The 2007 Constitution could also support the Shinawatra clan in power.

Under the rules of the game, the urban middle class's favourite choice, the Democrat Party, would be able to control the helm only for a short period, while the judicial activists helped twist the laws to install it in power. Otherwise, this party, which has not won an election since 1992, would never have had a chance. It is important to note that the party, like Pheu Thai, is never free from allegations of corruption. The party even used military force to handle street protests, which left more than 90 people dead in 2010.

With strong backup from the elite and mainstream middle class in the capital, the Democrats came out to lead street protests by calling again for "political reform" before an election.

It remains unclear what kind of reform they are looking for. Many proposals are not legally valid and some are even undemocratic. The call for a "People's Council" to set new rules and regulations to keep the new election clean is against the 2007 Constitution they themselves sponsored. Unless they amend the charter, the so-called People's Council would be an illegal entity. No need to mention that the way they propose to select members of the council is very undemocratic.

Democracy is premised on agreement about not only the ends, but also the means and values. An undemocratic route will never install democracy.

Suthep Thaugsuban and the Democrats should think carefully about their so-called reform idea. What they are doing these days is not reform, but it exposes the failures of what they did in 2006-2007.


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