Sunday, March 4, 2012

Don't go outside, political 'smog' is getting dangerous

Don’t go outside, people in the North have been warned as smog has hit a dangerous degree.
The same piece of advice if probably applicable to Thais in general over the upcoming political “smog” that is bound to descend on the country as the debate on the constitutional amendemts get under way.
Head of the Disease Control Department, Dr Pornthep Siriwanarangsan, issued this warning the other day:
“Don’t go out if you can’t see the power pole in your neighbourhood during the day. That’s a sign that the amount of small dust particles in the air has reached a dangerous level.”
My own exhortation for my friends who follow politics very closely is:
“Don’t go out if you can’t see what the debate on charter changes is all about. That’s a sign that lots of proposals for amendment are up in the air. And that could be dangerous for real democracy. Hence the special care you must take while discussing the hot issue with friends.”
This is no ordinary rewriting of the highest law of the land. It is being seen from the promoters in the ruling Pheu Thai Party as a drastic move to overhaul the whole political rules of the game to favour the dominant party and do away with checks and balances incorporated in the current constitution.
Some elements in the ruling power have already made known their final goals: Abolish the constitution court and administrative court.
Opponents see this move as a clear attempt to pave the way for former Premier Thaksin Shinawatra’s return and take back his political power while remnants of any possible obstacles would be wiped out in one sweep.
Advocates of the change argue that the current charter is the “poisonous fruit” of a “poisonous tree” – the 2006 coup and are clamouring for the return of the 1997 constitution which they claim are more “democratic.”
The heated debate in the joint session of parliament earlier this week pointed to the potential divisiveness of the issue – not so much whether it’s a good or bad thing to rewrite the charter but more importantly, what’s the “hidden agenda” in the whole exercise?
What appears to be “democratic” in form may in fact be not be so in substance. The proposal to have one province elect a representative to be a member of the Constitution Drafting Committee (CDA) is basically what electoral politics is all about. What political analysts are already predicting that the outcome of such ballot casting would follow the pattern of the last general election. No matter what is said to the contrary, political parties will have considerable influence in the voting outcome.
This despite the provision that no politicians will be allowed to play any role in the election of CDA members to give the image of “non-partisan” representation so that a “truly, ideally democratic” charter could be drafted for a public referendum.
But things aren’t always what they appear in politics where the principle of “majority rules, minority rights” is often observed in its breach.
The political “smog” is therefore getting thicker – causing serious concern for me about the general health of the general public. Because you can’t see anything clear even within a few meters away in your daily debate with friends on this hotly contested issue, the possibility of further turmoil caused by a new round of confrontation between the supporters and opponents of the move is bound to intensify in the next few months.
The combination of political fog and smoke produced by both sides threatens to plunge the country down the abyss of confrontational violence yet again. So, take good care. Don’t leave home unless political visibility has improved to a reasonable degree.

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