Long and winding roadmap
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Long and winding roadmap

Figure of fun: A pro-democracy demonstrator holds a mask of Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha with a Pinocchio nose. (File photo)
Figure of fun: A pro-democracy demonstrator holds a mask of Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha with a Pinocchio nose. (File photo)

Question: Is it more scary, or less scary, that the junta doesn't have an actual plan slash conspiracy to keep itself in power? That it has extended its time and generous pay and perks without any design ever since the phantom 2015 election?

The question arose last week. On Tuesday, after the cabinet meeting, the prime minister told the media gaggle that "there is no conspiracy to delay the return to democracy".

If Gen Prayut is right (and why would the chief political cartographer lie?), the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) keeps extending its power, year after year, without that actual roadmap the prime minister mentions but never actually shows.

And, he said, "I'm not interested in dragging things out", thereby modestly refusing to take any credit for one of the greatest dragging-things-out ever seen, apart from construction of the Kra Canal and the conclusion of the two terrorist trials of the yellow and red shirt leaders.

Full disclosure: We don't believe him, at least not in whole.

Just for starters, the 2014 coup d'etat was masterful. If they ever do a TV or movie re-enactment, it's going to take a heck of an actor to match the Oscar-worthy performance of Gen Prayut. Convincing every possible coup opponent to enter the locked, guarded room, voluntarily, before revealing the joke -- that's some social engineering worthy of a Mark "They're Dumb F*cks" Zuckerberg.

If the general prime minister is to be believed that "there's no plan" to delay elections, then you must accept that his is the most fortunate regime in history. Maybe you don't need to be a direct reincarnation of Niccolo Machiavelli to pull off his feats but you also can't be getting your moves from George III.

Take the constitution. Gen Prayut picked Borwornsak Uwanno as a dependable bureaucrat able to produce a charter in good time that would meet the coupmeister's stipulations.

When that didn't happen to the specs of Plan A, the general prime minister had Plan B to hand. He never said a word in public, but the junta-approved parliament turned down the document of the junta-approved Mr Borwornsak faster than you can say: "Get me the man who holds the world's record for most constitutions written and overthrown".

There was no plan? Sure. Pull the other one. And so on and so on and the 2015 election because the 2016 election, and the 2017 and the 2018...

Because the election trick, as any decent magician would call it, is certainly the general prime minister's signature deception. And if you think this legerdemain was guileless and involved no planning, then Mr Premchai wishes you could serve on a jury to decide whether he killed that black leopard.

It was pretty easy to predict, after the 2006-2007 military coup and election, that the media would be looking for a date on the day after the coup. Gen Prayut was ready for that, and gained time with a promise that peace, harmony, reconciliation, national reform and corruption would be (respectively) achieved, assured, accepted, completed and wiped out within, very roughly, a year. Then everyone could vote again in 2015.

No secret how that worked out. Or the 2016, 2017 and November, 2018, election. Or the reconciliation, reform and corruption. (For corrupt people, corruption has been working fabulously).

Last week, another funny thing happened, considering it happened to a man without a plan, supposedly.

First, let's set the scene. The general prime minister has just promised, on video, to the nation, even on the lame but official Thaigov government website, that there will be a general election "no later than February 2019, do I make myself clear?". The members of the National Legislative Assembly he personally appointed have arranged things so that promise can be kept.

[Enter Kittisak, stage left]

"Kittisak" is Kittisak Ratanawaraha, one-time labour advocate and staunch anti-Pheu Thai organiser from the North. Rather than let things lie, he organises a campaign to send a recently passed organic law on election procedures to the Constitutional Court for vetting, before the general prime minister signs off and sends it for royal approval.

The general prime minister is stunned. Just a day earlier he would not ask the Constitutional Court for advice. Because that could delay filling out the legislation necessary to have an election. And that, well, horrors! That could delay the 2015 election from February, 2019, much further into 2019.

He had absolutely no idea that Mr Kittisak was about to take a step that could force the junta and its dedicated chief and prime minister to remain in power for more months and months.

That's what happens when you have no plan to delay democracy. Stuff just happens and the roadmap winds on.

Alan Dawson

Online Reporter / Sub-Editor

A Canadian by birth. Former Saigon's UPI bureau chief. Drafted into the American Armed Forces. He has survived eleven wars and innumerable coups. A walking encyclopedia of knowledge.

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