Bombing no excuse to delay polls

Bombing no excuse to delay polls

Sitting in what is considered to be the heart of Asian democracy, India, the thought of how we Thais have come to live with the threats of military leaders when it comes to the return of democracy makes me wonder how and why have we become so timid.

Last week some people undertook a sinister act of placing an explosive device in a hospital, leaving nearly two dozen people injured. The incident took place on exactly the day that the military government was celebrating the third anniversary of the coup, leaving no doubt that the issue was politically related.

The fact that the bombing took place at Phramongkutklao Hospital, which serves mostly military officers and their families, in a room named after Prawit Wongsuwon, one of the key people in the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), indicates a political motive.

Umesh Pandey is Editor, Bangkok Post.

Although there are no words to describe the evil intentions and barbaric action of the culprits in bombing such a soft target, the fact remains that within hours of the blast the first reaction from coup leader and Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha was to issue a simple threat that if violence continues, the already swinging roadmap of the Dear Leader would swing further, with elections delayed once again.

The statement by Gen Prayut did not surprise people like myself who have been eagerly awaiting the return to a democratic system. I for one do not think that any person who has waited for three years to see the country return to democracy would want to jeopardise elections by undertaking mischievous acts such as the bombing.

The people who are looking for the return of democracy, be it the people, politicians or even the hardliners who have been blamed for the spate of bombings, would want to see it do so as soon as possible.

The announcement by army chief Chalermchai Sitthisart that fugitive Wuthipong "Kotee" Kochathamakun may be behind the bombing took the issue a step further. Kotee, who is reported to be living in Laos after fleeing Thailand soon after arrest warrants were issued in 2014 on lese majeste charges, is considered to be a hardline red shirt.

In March a huge cache of arms was discovered at Kotee's former residence and the general public were questioning how a person who has been a refugee could have amassed that many military-grade weapons while outside the country. Such questions were never answered and the public was basically forced to swallow the "facts" that came out of the government.

Once again it seems that the blame has been put on Kotee while reports that southern insurgents might have had a role have been discounted. Kotee has said that if he had to bomb a place, he would rather bomb Government House than a hospital.

But despite his denial and the government's allegations, it has yet to be determined which group was behind the blast. Complicating the issue is the usual fact that most closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras in the area were not functioning.

CCTV cameras rarely function when there is a major incident. Take the example of the recent disappearance of the plaque near Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall, where all 11 CCTV cameras were undergoing maintenance. The case of the missing plaque continues to remain a mystery.

In the case of the hospital bombing, CCTV cameras were not functioning and one wonders how such a thing could be possible. Was it a deliberate act of sabotage or was it an act by the bomber?

One has to consider who is the real beneficiary of these kinds of unrest. Is it the people who are looking forward to elections or is it the people who want to hold on to power?

If you were a democratic person, you would say, "What the hell -- we have waited for three years, so what is another year?" But those in power would take a different approach and would want to use such a bombing as an excuse to extend their grip on power using whatever means.

These people would not care about collateral damage because at the end of the day they would be able to control the outcome and the country, not knowing that democracies across the world do not care about a few bombs going off but instead insist that the correct process must be followed.

Countries such as India or Britain have never put off elections because a bomb went off but have been successful in their path to democracy due to the belief that, whatever the obstacles, there is no holding back on what is right for the people.

Umesh Pandey

Bangkok Post Editor

Umesh Pandey is Editor, Bangkok Post.

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