Coup panel a good step

Coup panel a good step

At long last, a concrete effort to prevent future coups has been proposed in the Lower House by eight Future Forward Party MPs. It is a much-needed first step for lawmakers to show the public that they are serious about putting an end to the vicious cycle of coups.

Led by FFP secretary-general Piyabutr Saengkanokkul, the party yesterday proposed that a House panel be set up to explore mechanisms to prevent future military takeovers.

Among several measures offered by the FFP and other opposition parties during a House debate are Mr Piyabutr's suggestions which focus on the need to bring coup-makers to justice and publicly deligitimise their putsches.

He proposed the constitution should be amended to feature provisions which bar the judiciary from accepting coup-makers' rule in the aftermath of a putsch, while empowering the people to legally oppose a takeover.

His other recommendations include the need to amend the Criminal Code by including a phrase that recognises members of the public as "damaged parties" from any seizure of power by force. This is to ensure that the court can accept criminal cases filed against coup-makers by individuals.

Under Section 113 of the Criminal Code, the seizure of power by force or the overthrowing of a constitution is punishable by life imprisonment or death. Despite there having been attempts to have former coup-makers punished under this provision, such complaints have been thrown out by courts which stated they are not the damaged parties in the cases.

It is obvious that Mr Piyabutr is trying to assure everyone that the party's anti-coup stance is not just a political campaign. But his efforts to make what appears to be impossible possible, face an uphill battle.

The judiciary has long been accused of playing an instrumental role in legitimising coup-makers' rule and the legal systems they established. Former military leaders have usually drafted laws providing amnesty for themselves following their seizure of power from a civilian government, and courts have usually recognised these legal provisions.

If lawmakers succeed in bringing about legal changes, they will still face more challenges with law enforcement. For instance, even without the judiciary's recognition of the rule of coup-makers, some legal experts have pointed out that in reality, it will be impossible for the courts to outright oppose the military's power. Doing so could result in judges being removed from office by the military, they said.

But the judiciary could do more by expressing their disagreement with coup-installed laws and systems in rulings on related cases, even though they cannot bring coup-makers to justice directly. Doing so would at least deligitimise such takeovers in the eyes of the public.

In the 88 years since the country became a constitutional monarchy, there have been 13 coups -- two of which took place in the past two decades. While corruption has always been cited by the military to justify their actions, coup-installed regimes have always failed to prove that they can bring about more transparent and efficient forms of government through rewriting the constitution.

Thailand has taken it for granted for too long that preventing the vicious cycle of coups is not possible. It is time to change our mindsets and those lawmakers who expressed an anti-coup stance during election campaigns should start exploring ways to make these much-needed legal changes possible.


Bangkok Post editorial column

These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.

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