Thursday, September 20, 2007

A brief analysis of Thaksin's article in the Asia Wall Street Journal.

(The Wall Street Journal Asia 2007 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All rights reserved)

I awoke on the morning of Sept 19 last year to the news that my government - and Thailand's democratic constitution - had been overthrown in a military coup.

Actually he discovered what was happening and made an emergency broadcast and declaration of national emergency as the coup unfolded.
Why does Thaksin tell such untruths? Simple, his only interest is to play the role of the innocent, naive bystander who is the victim. He does this to garner international sympathy to further his cause for political asylum. He knows the past is catching up with him and the extradition struggle is coming.

The coup came as a shock to me and to most Thais.

One year ago I was in New York, preparing to address the United Nations General Assembly on behalf of my nation. I was filled with pride as I looked forward to delivering my remarks. One year before that, I had been overwhelmingly re-elected as prime minister of Thailand. Thanks to the people of my nation, I was the first leader in the near 100-year history of Thailand to be not just democratically elected, but democratically re-elected.

Under my administration, we had cut poverty almost in half, provided universal access to affordable health care for the first time, balanced the budget and paid off our debts to the International Monetary Fund.

True, but all these trends were in place before Thaksin came to power. Poverty rates, IMF repayments and health care were already on the agenda. It could be argued that Thaksin and TRT speeded up these processes but at the expense of other agendas.

In addressing the United Nations, I intended to emphasise to the world the success and maturity of our democracy.

Thai democracy is far from mature. At the risk of repeating myself, independent bodies, press freedoms and opposition groups were all infiltrated and suppressed by Thaksin. This is a man who promoted his relative from three star general to army chief and all of his old friends to the top police spots. In what country is this considered "mature"?

I was never able to deliver my remarks, however, because I awoke on the morning of Sept 19 to the news that my government - and Thailand's democratic constitution - had been overthrown in a military coup.

The coup came as a shock to me and to most Thais.

Me thinks Thaksin is supplying another porky here. Thaksin is only too aware of the workings of the Monarchy and military and he had been locked in a war of words with the highly influential General Prem for some time. There were several signs that all was not well. Let's just leave it at that.

Democracy appeared to have become well entrenched in Thailand following adoption of the Constitution of 1997. Also known as the "People's Constitution," this charter was universally acclaimed as the most democratic constitution in the history of Thailand.

A constitution that was circumvented and cheated many times under Thai Rak Thai.

The people of Thailand have the same democratic aspirations and expectations as the people of other mature nations, and they will not rest until these are restored to them. Regrettably, the military rulers in Bangkok have spent most of the past year worrying not about promoting our nation's economic development or restoring basic rights to the Thai people, but rather about preventing me or anyone sharing my political philosophy from returning to political power.

In reflecting on the past year, I am appalled by the suffering that has been inflicted on the Thai people by the junta's misplaced priorities. I have made clear to all who will listen that I have no desire to again hold political office in Thailand. As a patriot whose first loyalty is to my King and country, I wish only to return to a democratic Thailand to live in peace with my family.

The junta justified the coup in part on the assertion that my administration was corrupt. Once in power, they created a government agency whose sole purpose was to validate this claim by finding me and my family guilty of some form of financial malfeasance. After investigating me for a year, none of the original charges has been sustained, so they have concocted new ones.

Not true. The charge of the Rachdapisek land purchase was mentioned from day one of the coup and Thaksin and his spouse have been charged. Other investigations are ongoing. Again this is catch 22 for both sides: Thaksin says the AEC is a kangaroo court and he has not been found guilty. In fact, the AEC have bought charges on two cases , they are working on others still because they are searching for evidence that a kangaroo court would not need to find.

In so doing, they have had to invent new interpretations of Thai law with respect to investment and taxation.

These new legal interpretations cannot be applied only to me, however, which has jeopardised Thailand's hard-earned reputation for predictability and respect for the rule of law.

As a result, foreign investment - long a principal engine of Thailand's economic growth - has begun to dry up.

Another untruth. The reason for dipping foreign investment is because the value of the bhat has shot up. There is no new interpretation of tax law that has affected foreign investment (other than a reserve law, which is not what Thaksin is referring to).

To try to stop me or anyone sharing my enthusiasm for free markets and democracy from ever regaining power in a free election, the junta has banned my former political party, forbidden over 100 of the most prominent political figures in Thailand from running for political office, and frozen my financial assets in Thailand.

Actually they were found guilty of violating election law (in several ways) in an efficient and transparent trial in the Constitutional Court.

For most of the past year, Thailand has been under martial law, with freedom of the press restricted and activity by political parties severely limited.

As per Thaksin's regime.

The junta appointed a committee to draft a new constitution for Thailand, stacking it with hand-picked bureaucrats. The committee's top priority was to reduce the role of the Thai people and their elected representatives in national decision-making.

The constitution they produced needlessly reduces the size of the lower house of Parliament to 480 from 500 members, the size of the Senate to 160 from 200 members, and redraws parliamentary districts in a manner designed to diminish the voting strength of the 35 provinces in northern and northeastern Thailand that have been most strongly opposed to the coup.

Yes, because the previous regimes had demonstrated that the number of MPs and senators was unduly high and simply encouraging the use of power cliques and coalition governments.

In addition, the new constitution strips the Thai people of the power to elect the Senate. Instead, senators will henceforth be appointed by unelected selection committees. The anti-democratic role of the Senate and the judiciary is amplified by features empowering the Senate to appoint heads of independent agencies and to remove the publicly elected prime minister.

Even honest senators had admitted the senate had become useless and less than thirty percent were impartial. Under election laws, senators could not campaign for election, they could only submit their name. So, we got friends and relatives of politicians forming the senate. One TRT MP even referred to the senate as " the slave house". The need for reform was clear although it is true that this new system is not ideal. Thaksin is being a total hypocrite by mentioning this though.

In a referendum last month, an unexpectedly large number of Thais voted against adoption of the constitution, despite severe restrictions on organised opposition to the referendum imposed by the junta during the campaign.

And despite a massive funding campaign for "no" votes by Thaksin's former TRT allies in the north.

There will now be a national election on Dec 23, which the junta wants the world to accept as free and fair. As campaigning begins, however, the junta continues to apply martial law in the 35 northern and northeastern provinces. In those provinces, it remains illegal for more than 10 persons to gather for political purposes - though this rule and others are rarely enforced against political parties favoured by the junta.

Lie. When have other parties been allowed to violate martial law?

To ensure itself a free hand, the junta is resisting efforts by the European Union and others to deploy election monitors.

The world appears inclined to accept all these departures from democratic norms. The explanation is as simple as it is troubling. The international community is so disgusted by the junta's mismanagement that it wants it to pass from the scene as soon as possible. Rather than quarrel over the details of democracy, the world appears ready to look the other way so as to provide no reason for the junta to delay the Dec 23 election.

In a bizarre twist, the junta's greatest weaknesses - its incompetence and unpopularity - have been transformed into its greatest short-term strengths.

The world is miscalculating, however, if it thinks there can be stability in Thailand without true democracy. The voters of northern and northeastern Thailand who the junta wants to disenfranchise may be poor, but they will not be denied their voice - nor will the millions of other Thais whose rights are being restricted.

We will not have stability, democracy and development in Thailand until we have genuine national reconciliation.

Needless to say, national reconciliation will not be achieved at gunpoint or through rigged elections ( as you proved, Thaksin) but rather when our generals and politicians finally put the national interest above their own narrow interests.

How very true.

Let me leave you with this response from
National Legislative Assembly (NLA) member Prasong Soonsiri:

"In order for political groups to move in the way that they have in the past means that they must have lots of money. The question is, where is the money coming from?" .

"I have never trusted this man, and I believe that a large number of people don’t believe everything he says. It would be better if he stopped making public his intentions to withdraw from politics and then doing the complete opposite soon after. He should focus on really ending his political ambitions and stop talking about it."

(Source for all material: Bangkok Post)

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