A call to summarily sack the Bangkok Governor over recent flash floods in the city has started an outpouring, nay, an overflow of similar calls.
The Stop Global Warming Association called on Prime Minister and NCPO leader Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha to use his powers under Article 44 of the Interim Constitution to sack Bangkok Governor MR Sukhumbhand Paribatra. The Association blamed the Governor for the fact that a torrential overnight downpour caused widespread flooding on Monday morning, paralyzing traffic and deluging newspaper front pages with pictures of watery wastes.
The Governor, who ironically was on a study tour of drainage systems in the Netherlands, rushed back to Bangkok to find that the flooding had subsided to zero, but popular indignation remained at dangerously high levels.
The Prime Minister, however, rejected the calls for the immediate dismissal of the Governor, saying that Bangkokians had voted him into office. The implication was that, as the holder of an elected position, the Governor was therefore automatically a politician, and what more could you expect.
Showing a hitherto unsuspected awareness of democratic processes, the PM suggested that Bangkok’s voters could express their opinions about the Governor’s competence in the next gubernatorial elections in 2017 (barring unforeseen delays). It would be improper to use his powers under Article 44, said the PM, because the governorship is an elected position.
This squeamishness seems to be misplaced. Article 44 says that ‘the Leader of the National Council for Peace and Order … may issue any order or direct any action to be done or not to be done, irrespective of whether the order or action would produce legislative, executive or judicial effect.’
I can’t quite see what impediment that creates for Gen Prayut. It is the ultimate carte blanche of power.
But perhaps he saw coming the minor tsunami of other demands for the use of Article 44. This overriding authority, it must be admitted, does not seem to have helped revive the economy, reform the police or restrain the price of lottery tickets. Adding more nationally critical issues to the ‘doesn’t work’ list would take a lot of Friday night explaining.
The Organization for the Hindrance of Foreign Urination on Cultural Icons in Thailand made an urgent request to the PM to use Article 44 to stop Chinese tourists from relieving themselves at inappropriate locations, to the disgust of all right-minded xenophobes with a Facebook account.
OHFUCIT urged Gen Prayut to sack the Minister of Tourism and Sports for her obvious dereliction of duty. They also suggested a raft of punitive decrees that include ‘rubbing their noses in it’.
Observers anticipate that the PM will have to ignore this call. Not only does he need the income from Chinese tourism and a token female presence in the Cabinet, but Chinese diplomatic support is crucial to a foreign policy that is scratching around to earn plaudits from political heavyweights like Antigua and Barbuda, Comoros, Kiribati and Nauru.
More likely of success is the call for the PM to marshal the country’s financial resources behind a Thailand bid for the FIFA World Cup, should the 2018 and 2022 competitions be taken away from Russia and Qatar. The backers of this move note that the bribes being uncovered, such as the $10 million paid by South Africa to noted Caribbean philanthropist Jack Warner, are well within the normal range of Thai bribery. And in the current President of the Thai FA, the nation has proven skills and experience in this sort of negotiation.
No hope, however, is given to the demand from Fans of TV Soaps, who want a specific time slot allocated for all government broadcasts so that they will never be a conflict with their favourite programmes. Under the slogan ‘No Clash with Trash’, they suggest that between 2 and 3 am would be a suitable time.
When asked if they really think that Gen Prayut will agree to his own weekly address being relegated to a graveyard slot, they noted that he could always tape his ramblings for later broadcast. ‘Anyway,’ said one gong show enthusiast, ‘he’s always asking others to make a sacrifice for the good of the nation. Maybe it’s his turn.’
About author: Bangkokians with long memories may remember his irreverent column in The Nation in the 1980's. During his period of enforced silence since then, he was variously reported as participating in a 999-day meditation retreat in a hill-top monastery in Mae Hong Son (he gave up after 998 days), as the Special Rapporteur for Satire of the UN High Commission for Human Rights, and as understudy for the male lead in the long-running ‘Pussies -not the Musical' at the Neasden International Palladium (formerly Park Lane Empire).