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Beware of those who see the need for Article 44

THE IRONY of the current political situation is that while the junta-appointed chairman of the Constitution Drafting Committee, Borwornsak Uwanno, is busy promoting the new charter and its numerous built-in checks and balances, junta leader and Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha is seriously considering anointing himself with unchecked absolute power under Article 44 of the provisional charter.
In a sane world, if one cannot solve a problem, one at least tries to mitigate the condition that causes the problem or at the very least not make it worse.
For many months now, Thais who cherish civic rights and democracy have been calling for the lifting of martial law because it violates basic rights and has paved the way for searches, arrests and detentions without charge for up to seven days, allegations of torture and the use of military courts against civilians.
Prayut's world seems to operate differently as he is reported to be seriously considering replacing martial law with an even more martial "law".
Article 44 of the junta's provisional charter basically gives absolute power to the head of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), which is Prayut. He can override the three branches of power - the executive, which Prayut already heads, the legislative, the members of which Prayut appointed, and the judiciary.
Article 44 essentially means Prayut is the law. He can order the detention of anyone without charge, without having to put the person on trial and for as long as he desires. 
He can even order you or me to be summarily executed as Field Marshal Sarit Thanarat did with a similar law back in the 1960s. It needs to be added that the junta leader can also insist on staying on in absolute power indefinitely. One might as well forget the relevance of Borwornsak and the new junta-sponsored charter.
Article 44 of the junta's provisional charter basically reduces citizens, with the right to choose its political representatives, into subjects of Prayut's autocratic rule. It would fundamentally deprive us of our rights as citizens and alter our "relationship" with the junta leader.
There are many Thais who are calling for Prayut to exercise this absolute power to deal with security issues, to maintain the facade of peace and reconciliation. Their "rationale" goes like this: Prayut is a good man facing evil so he needs absolute power to deal with the situation.
Supporters of autocratic power say if you have no intention of breaking the law or disobeying Prayut, then you have absolutely nothing to worry about. Only bad people are afraid or against absolute power, many of those who favour the implementation of Article 44 have insisted on Facebook and Twitter.
These people apparently are willing to forfeit their rights as citizens in order to become tenants, with the landlord assuming absolute authority over their lives. It's the yearning for ersatz law and order at all cost. It's the confusion over the rule of law and the rule by law that drives them. 
They merely want someone whom they believed to be good and honest to rule the country. They apparently don't mind if they end up more like serfs than citizens.
While Prayut's apparent desire for absolute power is very worrying, it's the blind supporters of the use of unchecked absolute power who are even more worrying. Some of them are much younger than Prayut and once Prayut is long gone, they will continue to yearn for autocrats.


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