As someone who voted for Pheu Thai before, and could possibly vote for them again, I would like to respectfully inform the party of this message:
Will the party be a part of the battle for democracy?
If the party thinks that this is the most important role for them right now, I would like it to be understood that the current political objective is not to win the election. If we’re under a constitution that deprives an elected administration body of power like this, why should we win the election? The party’s battle can no longer be limited to ballot boxes.
Throughout the past 4 years under the power of the junta, the number of party MPs that came out bravely to oppose the coup may have been less than the fingers of one hand, but the party did nothing other than compromise by lethargically listening to the orders of the junta. Party financiers may choose a policy of compromise for their own objectives, but the party doesn’t or shouldn’t have the same objective as its financiers. The obligation of a party that received such overwhelming political success can be nothing else but the commitment it has to the enormous number of people supporting the party, and because of that they must be the frontline in the battle for the rights and freedoms of the people.
Please try thinking about it. On 22 May four years ago, if all the MPs of the party who were not invited to be detained in a military camp had come out together and held up 3 fingers (in a gesture of defiance) along with the mass of people in the country, would we still have had to tolerate the raw power of the military junta for four years like today, or would a large number of MPs end up in a coup jail?
But being a politician in a country where democracy is not stable, is that not the duty of a politician?
Of course, compromise has an inevitable importance in the politics of every society, but in some cases, compromise makes the situation worse and it becomes more difficult to find a solution. In this kind of case, compromise will result in two disadvantages.
First, compromise means that we have to give up parts of our objective. Mostly, the parts that we give up are the ones important to the people. For example, to use the rights and freedoms legislated in the constitution, permission must first be granted by the state, because the one who determines what must be exchanged with what, is not the people, but only a few “adults” from the party. The more negotiations on compromise are done in secret, the more the people must be the side that loses.
Second, because of that, compromise responds to a very narrow individualistic objective and it is highly possible to be easily swallowed up as a part of evil. Please try thinking about it. If Thaksin Shinawatra or Yingluck Shinawatra becomes a puppet prime minister of the NCPO (according to this constitution), who would get anything, apart from people of the Shinawatra family?
So Pheu Thai should clearly and resolutely announce now that the party is ready to ally with all progressive political parties, such as the Thai Liberal Party (Seri Ruam Thai), Future Forward, Grin, etc. As for at what level and how they will be allied, that is something to be negotiated. But it must not be forgotten that being political allies is not only for the purpose of forming a coalition government, but to put forward projects to change the country back onto the path of democracy with the force to do it as effectively as possible, both when forming a government and when not forming a government.
The political mission of Pheu Thai and their allied parties is to invalidate all the administrative and legal measures which have come about while the country was under the coup. The constitution currently in force must be revoked quickly and the 1997 constitution brought back with a transitory provision that will allow the drafting of a new constitution using a process where the people have full participation.
The past four years have shown us more clearly than at any other time that the mechanisms of the Thai state are very backward. That’s why the Thai state still isn’t able by itself to bring the nation towards change according to the times. Due to this, Pheu Thai and its allies must push forward new “rules” where society can have a full role with the state as state leaders, not just those that back up the state. Society must take the burden of leading instead of the state that is lagging behind, and this leading should not be limited only to political parties and politicians, but society in general must have a direct role as well. For example, the National Economic and Social Development Board members must include a proportion of people from outside the public sector (only they have to think carefully on how to select representatives of society more broadly than just capitalists and academics, as well as consider links to networks beyond only board members).
The two main issues that must be fully invested in (not only in budget, other forms of “investment” should also be considered), are education, public health and decentralisation. Not only must elections at all levels of local administration be brought back, but all levels of local administration organisations must have independent power in their hands. This includes a process of checks and balances of the local people (not the Ministry of Interior). Local administration organisations must step in and be much more responsible for local public health and education than they are right now.
The concept of decentralisation by establishing large organisations which are state independent (e.g. the Thai Health Promotion Foundation), is not true decentralisation. It is merely the transfer of state power into the hands of a group of people claiming to be “professionals” to reap the benefits.
It has to be clear from the start that the political objective of Pheu Thai in entering the election under this constitution is to spread the thought of changing Thailand by quickly releasing it from the authority of the coup and allow space for society to introduce change, in place of government officials who are still behind like they have always been. The party must be brave enough to point out to the people the faults of the constitution and the political system, economic system, etc. that the junta has set in place.
Don’t be afraid that the party will be forcibly shut down or dissolved. The current situation and 2006 are very different, and even if they were ordered to be shut down, the politicians of the party can still move around politically as ordinary individuals (being a politician is not dependent on being certified by the ECT, but the point of view of the people). The party itself may also continue to exist as a political organisation that does not politically compete in the system.
Last but not least, being a candidate of a party which clearly proposes an alternative as stated above, if they are elected in your district, they will be elected. If they do not get elected, then they will not get elected. No matter who their party sponsor is, there will be no time for Pheu Thai to liberate themselves from the Shinawatra family as easily as now. The party should no longer promote anyone from the Shinawatra family as prime minister. Also, the importance of campaign budgets has decreased, since it is clear, clearer than any other elections before, about why we would elect anyone.
This election is a battle of ideologies. If Pheu Thai still attempts to maintain their insipidity in hopes of compromise, then unless they have the chance of compromise, the people will start to realise that they may not be able to use Pheu Thai as their political tool.
Strategic elections can in fact exist, but not just because the name Pheu Thai will receive automatic advantage. A large number of the people know that the satisfaction gained from beating the junta is not enough to help Thailand escape from the black hole that some groups from the military, some capitalists, barristers and academics have persistently been trying to bury the nation in, forever under the darkness.
Is Pheu Thai ready yet?