Listen to the young

Listen to the young

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and the government need to listen to the protesters in order to defuse the rising political tension before it escalates into violence which could seriously destabilise the country.

The mass gatherings in defiance of the emergency decree, which were held a day after the crackdown on protesters at Pathumwan intersection on Friday evening, is a wake-up call for the government to be more aware of the root causes of the protests.

The protesters have been adamant about their three demands, which are the resignation of Gen Prayut, constitutional amendment and reform of the monarchy.

Monarchy debate aside, their demands are directly linked to the prime minister and government MPs. Unfortunately, however, there has not been any sincere response to resolve the dispute from the government camp. Instead, the PM and his administration approved a cold-hearted, tough reaction against the protesters and their demands.

Government MPs have deployed numerous legal tactics to delay the process of rewriting the constitution, claiming that senators should be given more time to read and understand the charter drafts before deciding how to proceed with the amendment.

And Gen Prayut has vehemently brushed aside the calls for his resignation.

"No, I won't [resign]," he said, before asking the press what he had done wrong.

Legally, it is true that he did not do anything wrong which would disqualify him from his position, given how the emergency decree gave him sweeping powers.

However, he needs to admit that one of the root causes of the political unrest is the constitution -- a charter which was designed to prolong his (as well as the military's) grip on power, even after the election.

The composition of the Senate and its role under the constitution is among the root problems which need to be urgently addressed.

The 250-strong Senate was appointed by the coup-makers under the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO). Among them are six military and police top brass, namely the military's supreme commander, the chief of the three armed forces, the permanent secretary of defence and the national police chief.

The Senate played a crucial role in helping Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha retain the premiership after the March 24 elections last year. Under the current charter, the senators had the power to nominate an "outsider" as prime minister, if the House failed to select a prime minister from a list of candidates nominated by political parties.

With a five-year mandate, the Senate is thus able to endorse a premier at least twice, if the current government completes its four-year tenure.

Instead of admitting the problem, Gen Prayut seems to fancy himself a "saviour" in Thai politics, based on several remarks in which he asked the media how the country would have fared had he not intervened in 2014.

This erroneous belief is among the main reasons the prime minister took stiff action against the youth protesters.

Without correctly determining the root causes by listening to the youngsters' voice, the problems will remain unsolved.

Gen Prayut may see himself as a winner for successfully curbing the anti-government rallies by cracking down on protesters and arresting the protest leaders. But he fails to see that a country that is divided will be the loser.


Bangkok Post editorial column

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

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