PM needs to be proactive
Another protest by a major civic network has reiterated how the Prayut government has failed to resolve land and forest conflicts.
The People's Network for a Just Society (P-Move) took to the streets of Bangkok for a rally on Jan 20, revealing how several solution-making processes in the country have become dysfunctional.
P-Move first took their grievances outside the UN building and moved to Government House yesterday afternoon in order to heighten pressure on Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha's administration. More villagers are expected to join the rally.
The network -- which is an umbrella organisation comprising civic leaders and academics -- has a number of issues from local villagers and affiliated groups that make up a 15-point list of demands. Problems range from land conflicts with state agencies, concerns over community land deeds and ancestral rights violations in several provinces as some conservation laws are adversely affecting minority groups including hill-tribe villagers in the north and sea gypsies in the South. The network in particular highlights the plight of Bang Kloi Karen villagers in the heart of Kaeng Krachan National Park in Prachuap Khiri Khan.
The network has urged the government to participate in in-person talks because a series of online meetings it had with state agencies in March last year proved futile.
Gen Prayut had earlier assigned Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon to handle the contentious issues that the network is hoping to resolve.
Gen Prawit then appointed then deputy agricultural minister Capt Thamanat Prompow as chief negotiator with protest leaders. But Capt Thamanat, who allegedly challenged the prime minister's power during last year's no-confidence censure, was stripped of his cabinet status. Several agreements he had with groups of villagers in the past protests were then reversed.
It appears we're back at square one.
Since Gen Prayut took power in 2014, land conflicts in several areas have intensified, with several villagers being thrown into jail while long-term solutions to forest disputes have not been found.
P-Move complains that promises that Gen Prayut makes are merely time-buying tactics. The PM is only offering lip service, they say.
What is needed, P-Move stresses, is a new national-level panel, led by cabinet ministers, with all the decisions needing the cabinet's endorsement.
But the network's rally has the potential to be the spark that rocks an already-fragile Prayut government already suffering political turbulence stemming from the disunity within the ruling party. And on top of that, there are social problems such as the high costs of living and lingering economic hardship.
His popularity appears to have significantly plummeted given that Palang Pracharath, which is the ruling party, was whipped in recent by-elections.
Gen Prayut cannot afford to keep on cascading work to his subordinates and government agencies. As the country's leader, he should be aware that archaic bureaucratic mechanisms alone will not lead to a solution.
Instead, Gen Prayut needs to be more energetic and creative by garnering help from civic society and academics on difficult issues, with a view to putting in place end-result strategies
It's necessary for the PM to step out of his comfort zone and seek a modus operandi that has some hope to resolve the nation's chronic problems. But first of all, he has to prove he has the political will to tackle them.
Bangkok Post editorial column
These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.
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