This time, the putsch can bring change

If we think the coup-masters usurping power is such a pain in the neck, we only have ourselves to blame.

Why? In the past we have either refused to acknowledge the urgency of reforming the crumbling pyramid of powers or paid lip service to the cause, time and again. And look where that got us.

We are back to square one eight years after the previous coup. Countless committees could have solidified the precious groundwork for all-round reform, but failed.

A truth and reconciliation panel could have handed us conflict resolution but came and went in the political high drama we couldn’t find closure for.

But we can’t go on ranting or crying over spilled milk. Maybe this time we could emerge in better shape than the feeble putsch of 2006 now that we are once again seizing the opportunity for reform with an army that appears to have learnt from the mistakes of the past.

When the tanks rolled into Bangkok in 2006, the crux of the justification for the coup was massive corruption.

This time, it was the need to avert a bloodbath caused by the fierce colour-coded conflict.

Corruption is part of the sweeping picture of administrative failures and inadequacy although it contributes substantially to an escalation of social and political divisions which have reached crisis point.

The maddening conflict started after Gen Sonthi Boonyaratglin staged the coup but failed to, as some observers put it, "go all the way" in rooting out corruption and straightening out the mismanaged administration.

Popular support for the toppled premier Thaksin Shinawatra grew from strength to strength while the anti-Thaksin coalition laid dormant waiting to regain vitality.

All the while no one was prepared to listen to each other. Few showed any interest in reform.

These failures sowed the seeds for the colour-coded conflict which the present coup-masters say prompted their intervention as the army once again seized administrative power.

Politicians,for their part, only take any notice of reform when they are in trouble or under pressure.

Last time they promised to usher in meaningful changes and insisted the reforms would be multifaceted. So thin on detail was the reform platform that few were persuaded.

For reform to hold any water, it has to start with putting politics in order. Policies decided at Government House dictate the functions of the state, influence the economy and can even turn people against each other.

But the rule of majoritarianism we call democracy demands the business of reforming politics must fall on the shoulders of elected office-holders, as imperfect as they might be.

The politicians wouldn’t reform unless there was an election first. Yet there is nothing to assure us the politicians will not renege on their pledge to reform the system.

Reform is a bullet-biting exercise and it requires tremendous sacrifices on the politicians' part to move it forward. It also involves the inevitable, which is clipping the powers and the perks they enjoy.

It boils down to the age-old bottom line: Who will implement the reforms if the politicians are reluctant to do the task?

Now with the ball in the military's court, we might have a reason to hope the reform effort will take off after other avenues have failed us, especially if the public this time is given a bigger say.

Can the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) deliver what the politicians couldn't or wouldn't in the past?

The NCPO has the authority at its disposal to bring about all-round reforms even though a separate council, which is taking shape as I write, must be up and running to handle the task.

The reforms will form an important basis for amending the new constitution as well.

The NCPO doesn't have the red tape and legal technicalities to slow it down. All it needs to do is show us it is willing and sincere to make the reform count.


Kamolwat Praprutitum is an Assistant News Editor, Bangkok Post.

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Writer: Kamolwat Praprutitum
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