Friday, June 01, 2007

Another Sad Day for the Rule of Law in Thailand

I can never understand why Thais use "political science" as an excuse when they make legal decisions that are incomprehensible from a legal standpoint. I suppose it's because they would have to go into impossible (and indefensible) logical contortions were it not for the convenience and malleability of the "political science" excuse.

Verdicts the by-product of an illegal seizure of power

The ruling of the Constitution Tribunal, which dissolved Thai Rak Thai and banned party executives from politics for five years, shows that the tribunal had no independence and is acting as the arm of the military junta. The whole point of the September 19 coup was to destroy Thai Rak Thai. The junta could not therefore hold an election before it had found someone to prevent the party from taking part in elections. The tribunal has done its job.

It is true that Thai Rak Thai officials paid small parties to stand in the April elections. This was a dishonest act and should be punished. The larger and much more serious fact that the Constitution Tribunal chose to ignore is that the September 19 coup was an illegal and violent act against democracy.

In fact the tribunal ruled that the junta's decrees were legitimate laws. In doing so it gave importance to the "tradition of Thai style governance" and quoted previous coups (October 6, 1976 and February 1991) as useful legal standards. The tribunal argued that dissolving parliament in times of crises was somehow "undemocratic". Yet it is an accepted international democratic standard. Coups by the military are not.

The tribunal never considered why Thai Rak Thai officials paid small parties to stand in the April election? The reason is that Thai Rak Thai was trapped by a legal pitfall that resulted from the Democrats and other opposition parties deciding to boycott the election. Opposition parties boycotted the election because they knew that they would lose because the majority of the electorate did not support them. Paying small parties to stand in this election made no difference to the overall result: 16 million for Thai Rak Thai and 10 million against.

When one looks at it like this we see that the Democrat Party had no democratic principles. Now they are looking forward to winning an election where their main rival has been eliminated by a coup and a tribunal ruling. If Thai Rak Thai is to be accused of destroying democracy, so too must the Democrat Party.

Yet the tribunal has ignored this and made a "political" judgement.

In fact dissolving the political parties was never a proper solution to Thailand's crisis. The people should be trusted to make choices about parties and all those who are interested in politics should engage in democratic debates. This means that the September 19 coup and the tribunal ruling will never be a long-term solution to the crisis.

The junta and its supporters hope that the next election will result in an extreme neo-liberal government which quotes "fiscal discipline" in order to cut welfare for the poor majority. They have written extreme neo-liberalism into their draft constitution.

If they get what they want the majority of the Thai electorate will have a government that they never supported.

We must continue to campaign against the dictatorship and all its supporters. We must continue to build a political party of the Peoples' Movement and we must oppose any election that disenfranchises the poor from making their own choices.

Giles Ji Ungpakorn
Letter to The Nation (Thailand), 1 June 2007

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