A little less than a week ago, on the evening of May 24th, 2007 His Majesty once again shared his wisdom on the current political situation with the Thai people, with particular focus and concern on the party dissolution case. His Majesty’s speech shall prove to be invaluable to the Constitutional Tribunal who will disclose their much-awaited verdicts to the general public later today. Moreover, His Majesty has also instilled much needed public confidence in the judicial process; regardless of the outcome. As one of the main defendants in the Case, I shall refrain from giving my personal opinion on this topic, nor would it be appropriate for me to interpret His Majesty’s message.
Nevertheless, as one of His Majesty’s loyal subjects, I believe it to be my utmost responsibility to help find solutions to the various problems that have been foreseen by His Majesty.
At the very least, we should all remain vigilant and help prevent any threats of violence that may occur in the immediate few days after the revelation of the verdicts which may be instigated by groups or individuals who might react negatively to the verdicts of the trial. To this end, I would urge all parties to accept the verdicts of the Tribunal and to refrain from engaging in acts that may lead to chaos or violence.
As Leader of the Democrat Party, I can assure everyone that neither the Party nor its members will put pressure on the Tribunal at any time and that on May 30th, the only representatives from the Party who will be present at the Constitution Court to hear the verdict will be the executive committee members, the senior advisors and the Party’s legal team.
But we all need to look beyond these immediate events. If we are to resolve the current underlying problems within our society ranging from the endemic violence in the South, divisiveness in general to economic problems which directly affect the well-being of the people, we must recognize that these problems are inevitably tied up to the political tension and uncertainties.
I have maintained all along that the best way to resolve all these difficulties is by allowing democracy to return as swiftly and smoothly as possible, with free and fair elections under a democratic constitution. Even though the CNS and the Prime Minister have promised to hold elections by the end of the year, the general public still views this pledge with much skepticism, due to the fact that many uncertainties remain surrounding upcoming events such as the referendum and other court cases. Yet there is no alternative if we are to regain confidence from the international community, revive the economy and resolve the unrest in the three Southern provinces. We must move forward in this direction. In order to best achieve the above objective, I would like to propose that a neutral forum be held among at least the following groups:
1. The Government: The current government will most likely be in power until an election can be organized and will therefore be responsible for establishing the foundations for free and fair elections and for finding ways for Thai politics to rid itself from the sins of its past i.e. corruption. If laws need to be enacted in order to achieve this, the government might be joined by the Speaker or a representative from the National Legislative Assembly (NLA.)
2. The CNS: not only because the CNS’ prime responsibility is maintaining order, but also by virtue of being the coup leaders, there is still much suspicion concerning the CNS’ political ambitions. The CNS’ uncertain future makes the future of Thai politics unclear.
3. The President and other Representatives from the Constitutional Drafting assembly: The Assembly must make sure that the new Constitution is democratic and would not become a cause for dispute either before or after the election takes place.
4. Leading Politicians: Whether any of the political parties are dissolved or not, and whatever one thinks of politicians, one cannot deny the influence politicians have on the electorate. Politicians will continue to play an important role in communicating with the voters during the referendum period and some will have an even bigger role once the elections are done and over with.
5. The Election Commission (EC): Apart from the role of organizing elections and referendums, the EC has an added role of having jurisdiction over the actions and activities of politicians.
It is important that the mentioned groups and individuals have a chance to meet and exchange views, in order to find a common stance preferably along the following line.
1. Provide a clear roadmap according to the Interim Constitution by setting a definitive timeline concerning the referendum and election dates (for all outcomes concerning the Constitution) with all parties pledging support as well as denouncing any departure from such a process (be they coups, counter-coups, riots etc.).
2. Ensuring that the Constitution is democratic: Any Constitution – be it the Assembly’s or the CNS/government’s version- must be democratic in spirit. The Constitution must not be used to as an excuse for the junta to hang on to power or to turn back the clock on Thai democracy and thus inviting further problems.
3. Opening up Space for politicians to express opinions and engage in activities: Regardless of the verdicts of the party dissolution case, politicians should be allowed more room to engage in political activities, so as to best provide voters with genuine choice come election time. However, politicians should concede that certain restrictions might be needed at first to help maintain order.
4. Calling for the public to respect Judicial Decisions: The public should be made to understand that all judicial decisions are made on the basis of equality, transparency and independence.
I truly believe that such a process could help ease the political tension that is plaguing the current political terrain, because the proposal would not disadvantage any group or individuals but would also have the flexibility to retain differences on some issues which would be settled through the ballot box in an open and competitive environment for the upcoming referendum and elections (in which even those currently in power may join).
Ultimately, there will continue to be those who have an interest in creating instability, whether to advance their political agenda or to protect their interests. But a common stance set out above as agreed upon by such a forum would alienate them from the overwhelming majority of the people, hence making the chances of their success very slim. The country can then move forward for the benefit of the Thai people.