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Junta celebrates its birthday while Thailand cowers By The Nation Five years of self-serving rule has cemented the military’s dominance with a fake parliamentary democracy Yesterday marked the fifth anniversary of the coup that brought the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) to power under a pretext of restoring order. In reality, little has changed in the deep-lying disorder that sparked political violence in the run-up to the military takeover. The stated goal of returning the country to democratic civilian rule has not been achieved and the country is still as divided as ever. The junta NCPO gave us a half-baked Constitution that failed to reflect the sentiment of the populace. It was hastily pushed through with no input from people with opposing visions for Thailand. This flimsy fig leaf did nothing to hide or legitimise the naked military force by which the NCPO rules. The Constitution then spawned a general election that was structurally rigged. The result is an extension of de facto military rule along with its host of repressive laws and a Senate stuffed with handpicked generals and cronies. Their first duty will be to vote in Prayut Chan-o-cha as prime minister, regardless of the election results. Beside sidelining any opposing voices, the past five years of NCPO rule has also seen many who challenged the junta’s policies flee into exile. The March general election, meanwhile, did nothing to unite the country’s people and heal the social and political wounds. Instead it cemented the military’s place in national politics and the politicisation of key institutions like the Constitutional Court. The country may appear to be transitioning to democratic rule, at least in the eyes of uninformed outsiders. But in reality, thanks to ground rules laid down by the NCPO, military rulers are merely exchanging their uniforms for civilian suits. The past five years are also littered with broken promises. The pledges to enact political reforms never came to fruition, and divisions the junta was supposed to heal are still as painful as ever. Meanwhile the 250 junta-proxies in the Senate will serve five-year terms, which means they will pick at least the next two prime ministers. The NCPO tells us that the handpicked Senate is a necessary safeguard if Thailand is to escape its 14-year-old political crisis. In reality, the Senate is a cornerstone of the junta and its cronies’ plan to hold on to power for decades to come. What junta members cannot acknowledge is that their long-term strategy and so-called achievements will come back to haunt them sooner or later. The Election Commission (EC) was supposed to ensure a smooth transition from military to civilian rule, but irregularities on its watch have unmasked the process as a sham. The EC’s failure to respond to legitimate criticism only further erodes the credibility and legitimacy of the incoming government, which will likely be led by the junta’s proxy – the Phalang Pracharat Party. If proof were needed, the past five years are testimony that a military coup can never be a solution to a corrupt and flawed government. The only legitimate and effective solution is elections. We may not like the government of the day, but tearing up the Constitution only to write another does nothing to remedy the situation. For evidence we need only look at the vicious cycle of Thai governance since the advent of democracy. The past five years was also an opportunity missed. The NCPO could have steered the country back on a democratic course. But instead its members and hangers-on became the key beneficiaries of rules and regulations that were supposed to restore normalcy to Thailand. Source: http://www.nationmultimedia.com/detail/opinion/30369853 -- © Copyright The Nation 2019-05-23 Follow Thaivisa on LINE for breaking Thailand news and visa info
Giving birth to an uncomfortable truth By The Nation Those outraged that a high-ranking Thai official sought US citizenship for her baby should first ask why she took that decision A Thai woman has sparked uproar by travelling to the United States to give birth so that her child would receive American citizenship. There were even suggestions that former deputy police spokeswoman, Pol Lt-Colonel Dr Anchulee Phetcharat, should be investigated by both the police and the Medical Council for posting a Facebook message advertising the “legal loophole” in US citizenship law. The director of Police General Hospital where Dr Anchulee works said officials were checking to see whether there are grounds for a full disciplinary probe. Medical Council secretary-general Itthiporn Khanacharoen said his agency was also checking whether Anchulee’s “personal post” had breached medical ethics. Anchulee gave birth to a son earlier this month. She drew criticism after posting a photo of herself pregnant on May 14 with a message inscribed on her belly in Thai. The caption invited interested mothers-to-be to give birth in the US to secure a better future for their child. But this is not really what the fuss is all about. She swiftly deleted the post, but the debate it triggered was already exploding as Thai netizens reacted with upset and dismay. The US constitution deems anyone born in the country an American citizen. But Thais interested in the case are not debating American law. The red-hot topic is whether it is appropriate for a government civil servant to send such a message. Many believe she offended Thai people’s honour by making such a suggestion. After all, what’s wrong with being born in Thailand? In an ideal world, Dr Anchulee should be able to choose whatever location she wants for the birth of her child. But we don’t live in a perfect world. The notion of the nation-state demands that we take up a national label as part of our personal identity. A nation-state is administered by bureaucrats. These state workers are often display extreme patriotic loyalty – partly because they depend on the bureaucracy for personal status and professional advancement. As such, when somebody like Anchulee reminds us that the country is less than perfect, Thais and Thai bureaucracy tend to react as if they have been stung. Anchulee may have violated snobbish bureaucratic culture by highlighting the not-so-promising side of the Thai state and society, but did she violate protocol? After all, she was not speaking as a police spokesperson but posting as an individual who, like any parent, wants the best for their children. Thai nationalism, like nationalism elsewhere, has long been exploited by public figures and political leaders for their own gains. Too often we take such tribal feelings too far, like when we beat each other up over simple things such as a football match. Instead of going after Anchulee and threatening her with disciplinary action, perhaps we would do better to reflect on our own shortcomings. We could start with a simple question: What’s the problem with giving birth in Thailand. Is it the medical facilities or is it the lack of opportunities for children to grow and develop. After all, if a mid-ranking police officer with a medical degree and a promising career still feels reluctant about raising a child in Thailand, perhaps we need to ask what’s wrong here. Are we doing enough to level the playing field and instil a sense of justice in society? Or are we and our leaders just wrapping ourselves proudly in the Thai flag so we don’t have to address these uncomfortable questions. Source: http://www.nationmultimedia.com/detail/opinion/30369718 -- © Copyright The Nation 2019-05-21 Follow Thaivisa on LINE for breaking Thailand news and visa info
Thanathorn’s self-defence can help or hurt politics By The Nation As long as the Future Forward leader stays focused on proving his innocence rather than attacking his accusers, society as a whole can benefit Politically, Future Forward leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit seems to have a slight edge. Relentless attempts to dig into his current or past ownership of shares can be seen as a conspiracy to nip a rising star in the bud. His massive fan-base is unhappy about it, and he can count on foreign support. Additionally, no matter what happens legally, he will remain in a strong position to shake up his opponents. Legally, it looks like he’s constantly on the back foot. Fresh allegations and questions keep coming about his previous statements on share ownership, and now the Constitution Court is involved. Thanathorn and his party have dealt with some allegations, but others remain hanging in the air. It’s imperative that Thanathorn clear the doubts for his own good and for the long-term good of Thai politics in general. Whether there is a conspiracy involved or not, he needs to prove that he’s not a typical politician who counterattacks accusers rather than providing solid, unambiguous proof of innocence. There have been numerous examples of how vague self-defence damages politics broadly. In fact, what Thanathorn is determined to change – the incessant meddling of the military – is rooted in politicians’ failure to adequately defend themselves against accusations of dishonesty. Rather than showing undeniable proof of innocence, they choose to play victims, with predictable harm done to public trust. Charges against Thanathorn began trivially enough. He was said to have registered his election candidacy while still holding shares in a media company. As a result, his candidacy was at stake. It was a shock at the time but seems minor now. Thanathorn’s defence strategy, though, has elevated the affair beyond a simple question of costly oversight versus criminal act. He insisted that the shares were transferred to his mother before he registered for the March 24 election. His accusers are seeking to poke holes in his story, and if they succeed, he could be portrayed as a liar – or worse. His supporters won’t care, of course. In their eyes, he is being politically persecuted, pushed against the ropes and forced to do whatever it takes to survive. The problem is that his opponents see precisely the opposite and he could end up another massively divisive figure. He is already causing divisiveness on a grand scale. But so far it has been strictly political because he has not been found guilty of anything. There are those who don’t like what he’d done and said in the past, even though he’s surely entitled to his ideological beliefs. His detractors are clashing with his admirers, who like his boldness and determination to effect political change. Such disagreement is normal, but such matters become much more complicated when legal action comes into play. When people clash over legal matters, essential social and political fabric can be torn or weakened. Thailand has gone through enough of this misery and it can do without another major legal controversy. We hope Thanathorn will continue fighting accumulating charges and produce clear-cut evidence in his defence, remaining focused on proving his innocence rather than turning the attack on his enemies. If he can do this, his legal strategy will remain sound, since the judicial system deals in facts, not public sentiment. Moreover – and probably more importantly – that would benefit Thai politics in the long run. Source: http://www.nationmultimedia.com/detail/opinion/30369672 -- © Copyright The Nation 2019-05-20 Follow Thaivisa on LINE for breaking Thailand news and visa info