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Postbag: Democracy in Thailand stalled since 1932

Bangkokpost Opinion

Re: ”Heavyweights battle over lese majeste law” (BP, Opinion, Jan 16).

In 1932, a historic change took place in Thailand when the monarchy ceased to be absolute and became a constitutional monarchy. This was a major step towards developing a democracy. However, during the subsequent 80 years, there seems to have been little further development that would enable the country to be recognised as as an established democracy.

The article illustrates clearly how little has been achieved towards achieving democratic status. We are told that ”26 lecturers from 5 institutes of higher learning” formed a pro-monarchy group to confront an existing anti-monarchy group. Presumably, the former are in favour of a democracy whilst the latter are republicans, but of course they may well have other ideas on governance.

The issue that must be decided is what form of governance the people of Thailand wish to have. The further, fundamental question is: Does the country know what it wants?

With the so-called heavyweights battling over one law, it would seem that even they do not know what they are battling over. They should take a step back and think more fundamentally. Whether it is the intention to establish a democracy or a democratic republic, neither can be achieved with the law on lese majeste in its current form.

One of the first principles of democratic governance is freedom of speech and this is not permitted under the present law.

Nobody is able to see the forest for the trees. Thailand is not a democracy simply because people have the vote. There is much more to democratic governance than having the vote. If those in the higher echelons of academia do not address the fundamentals, then what hope is there for the populace to understand where the country is and which direction it should take constitutionally? Thailand has been largely a plutocracy that in turn has been controlled by an oligarchy. Thankfully the constitutional monarchy has been held in place at the wish of the majority of the people. But at the same time, this overwhelming majority have not only voted the oligarchy into power but have fought tooth and nail to have it restored, even though its fugitive leader has been criminalised.

It must be concluded that there is little understanding of forms of governance, and certainly not of democracy, even by the academic ”heavyweights”. The monarchy is automatically essential to a democracy and is apolitical and above the law.

Democracy, once established, would calm much of the unrest in the country and resolve many, if not most, of the social grievances. Academia would do well to lead the way forward by setting out, carved in stone, the principles to be established to make Thailand a recognisable democracy.

J C WILCOX

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Written by Kham

17/01/2012 at 8:00 pm

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