Sunday, June 03, 2007

They think it's all over, is it now?

“Thai Rak Thai have damaged society. They acted not for the people but for power
Court judge.

Politics, like football, is all about opinions. No opinions = no politics, the equation is simple. The pitfall of this of course is that strong opinions drag us into the quicksand of human nature in denying and ignoring facts and arguments that simply don’t fit our belief system. It’s a well observed fact that far right wing politics and politicians often have an underlying element of fear in many of their policies. Such fear - whether well founded or not - frequently leads to rejection and denial of truths.

So we all know it’s rare to find a balanced judgment on hot political issues of the moment, and when discussing the finale to the dissolution trial of Thai Rak Thai and The Democrats, it’s even harder. The Nation will undoubtedly trumpet TRT’s downfall and its subsequent hammer blow to Thaksin. Bangkok Pundit will diligently document the facts and frequently look to the hypocrisy of the junta, and rightly so. Thailand Jumped the Shark will scan the faults in The Nation's reporting and numerous Thai political groups (not parties) will simply cry foul over TRT being punished.

How you see justice and truth depends on where you are standing. Touching it requires one to walk through a minefield of hearsay, polemicism, and outright falsification. For that alone, the Constitutional Court should be commended. The verdicts were due at 3am, the final decision was announced shortly before midnight. The nine hours in between involved a marathon outline and verdict read in installments by the judges. It’s to the immense credit of the judges that for all objections and foul cries after the verdict, few have pointed to discrepancies or choice interpretations of the law. The judges took each point and accusation and discussed it in detail. It was far too technical for a farang like me to follow the language (BangkokPundit played a good role here), but I’ve yet to meet or read from a Thai who had a problem with the verdict.

The Democrats have been exonerated. The courts examined the complaints - including suggestions that they “framed” Thaksin or damaged democracy by encouraging a “no vote” campaign - and dismissed them as well within the boundaries of free speech. Accusations suggesting Democrats hired small parties to defame TRT were also dismissed.

Around the same time as this verdict, it was also announced that three minor parties would be dissolved for having forged documents (in the case of the Progressive Democrat Party) or engaging in other dishonest practices, such as in the case of Pattana Chart Thai (not to be confused with Chart Thai).

The TRT verdict then began. It seemed like the verdict would never end. I watched Channel Three - with its English summaries running at the bottom of the screen, but I couldn’t stay awake. I awoke the next day to the news that TRT had been dissolved.The party that seemed like an unstoppable political juggernaut just a few years ago had met its fate.

And what’s more, the court enforced a rule that party executives are banned from politics for five years. Whilst many expected trouble at this verdict, the response was relatively well maintained. Few incidents occurred.

Now allow me to put my neck out and say something really unfashionable: justice has been served - legally and poetically. Firstly, the evidence against TRT was damming. The evidence against The Democrats was cooked up in a pathetic response to balance the charges and allow both parties to be let off. Judges spent weeks sifting through files, documents , witness reports and argumentation to actually detect and deliberate raw facts. When this happened, TRT was doomed.

Poetically, the response from each party in the fiasco speaks volumes. Three days before the trial verdict, Chaturon Chaisang - caretaker leader of TRT - announced there would be a protest on Thursday , with his close allies at PTV using “students as security guards”. The day before the verdict he announcedIf the party is dissolved, we will register again under the same party name”. No hint of remorse, not a whisper of care or concern for the country and its problems. The closest to the latter was a remark “We will continue to propagate the populist policies made by Mr. Thaksin” in a desperate attempt to continue selling under the name of the banned Mr. Thaksin. After the verdict? Chaturon saidThis ruling came from those who took power, even though that power came from the barrel of a gun”. Err….sorry Chaturon, the ruling actually came from judges, not the junta. Sure they might have been lobbied but they actually obeyed the law, unlike the same court when they cleared your founder Thaksin of asset concealment charges where one judge later admitted he regretted ignoring the law and clearing Thaksin.

Whether such arrogance and lack of remorse goes over the head of the rural masses that follow TRT or if they don’t hear it, I have no idea. Likewise, the fact that the courts abided by the rule of law and gave a legal, clear and concise verdict has not been mentioned by anyone at TRT. Their response has been akin to a spoilt child who refuses to accept his punishment, more on that in a moment.

For The Democrats, the story was different. Abhisit promised before the veridct to “continue working for the Democrats as long as I can still breathe, even if they cease to exist as a political party”. And “I believe we will be cleared because we are innocent” After the verdict, Abhisit declared simply “Let’s turn our victory into Thailand’s victory”.

Nobody is foolish enough to think of Abhisit or The Democrats as angelic, and indeed they made many mistakes during their own reign, but the sheer fact they are at least trying to show they care went a long way with me.

But this is politics, and there’s always fallout. So after the verdict , what do you think happened? A show of repentance? A plan amongst politicians to take note of the law in future? Nope, no fairy tales here people. The ban on TRT politicians created a huge scramble for the power (and money) void left behind with immediate announcements for a “TRT group” with suggested leaders including the well known incompetent, allegedly corrupt, undoubtedly hidiously fat and sickeningly arrogant Chavalit Yongchaiyudh (Wikipedia have spared you the horror of a photo) amongst other equally desirable names.

The fact that such people belonged to different parties - with supposedly different ideals - and displayed impotence and highly questionable behavior even in their better years matters not. The policy of money is all that matters for such ‘old ginger’ politicians.

For that reason alone, I hope The Democrats win the next election. The jury is still out (no pun intended) on Abhisit, but he is at least a new breed of politician. Western educated, young, no military connections and actually fluent in things such as policies that extend beyond “directorships for me” (To be fair, Thaksin also had most of these qualities) and a clean record and lack of arrogance.

The alternative is that this brave step for the better taken by the constitutional court, simply opens the door for Dark Age rulers to return once again.

No comments: