In decrying corruption, elites must show consistency

In decrying corruption, elites must show consistency

Let me be clear: I despise corruption and suffer from it like the rest of us. Let me be even clearer: I’d like to see Thailand rid itself of the deeply corrupt and incompetent elements of the “Thaksin regime”.

But I seem to be afflicted with a rare disorder called “consistency”. Because if we loathe corruption we must condemn all regimes guilty of it. That means we must also condemn the Phibulsonggram regime, the Thanarat regime, the Suthep regime and God knows how many others. All these regimes have been guilty of graft on a scale glaringly obvious to those who haven’t succumbed to political Alzheimer’s.

If we, the privileged class, claim the moral high ground in fighting corruption, then we must do battle with it in all its forms and wherever it resides. Because at the moment the elites are close to becoming nothing more than schizophrenics ordering brunch from the menu of a cheap roadside diner, callously picking and choosing which kinds of graft we find grotesque and which ones we find mildly acceptable. More importantly, if the elites are to permanently and successfully occupy the moral high ground we must demonstrate the willingness to also clean up our own house.

In my view, consistency within our justice system must be paramount if court verdicts are to be the final word. However, that means if caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra is indicted by the National Anti-Corruption Commission for dereliction of duty in her role as prime minister overseeing the disastrous rice pledging, then Abhisit Vejjajiva must surely also be guilty of the same crime as the premier overseeing the scandalous scheme that wasted nearly 10 billion baht on 396 abandoned police stations.

If the blanket amnesty bill for ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra is unconstitutional, then why is the amnesty clause in Section 37 of the 2006 interim constitution, which pardons all those involved in the preceding coup d’etat, a totally accepted legal precedent?

Moreover, why have our courts failed to put behind bars any of those involved in People’s Alliance for Democracy protests which saw our international airports shut down, and why are all the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship leaders who called for the burning of our city still walking the streets or even serving in cabinet?

Our courts and our judges are not beyond scrutiny. After all we pay their salaries and ultimately they must be answerable to the public and accept criticism when they have failed to administer justice. I will be the first to admit that judges have been highly trained to understand the nuances of the law. To the poor and uneducated in our country, legal jargon is a foreign language. But the elites have utterly failed to understand one thing: You don’t need a law degree from Harvard to recognise incompetence and inequality, but most of all, injustice.

The charter court, in particular, should accept cases with care because its rulings set the ultimate judicial precedent. I’m just so concerned when I see the Democrats appealing to the highest court more often than I go to my local 7-Eleven.

One of the most ridiculous court cases in our history must be the Democrat Party’s attempted petition to have the Feb 2 election annulled on the grounds that the poll could not be completed in one day. The election could not be completed because firstly, the Democrats boycotted it and secondly, because anti-government protesters physically blocked polling booths. Therefore, it’s rather like an arsonist setting fire to their own house and then blaming the fire brigade for not putting out the fire in time.

Luckily the courts rejected the petition, but the Democrat Party should have been laughed out of court and heavily fined for wasting taxpayer money on this monumentally frivolous case.

In the coming months, the various institutions of our fragile democracy will be making pivotal decisions which will play an integral part in charting Thailand’s course. As a collective we must decide what kind of political order we want to live under. Call me an Anglophile, but I aspire for us to one day have a political system like that of the United Kingdom. While by no means perfect, at least it’s a country where the elites and middle class co-exist in relative harmony.

Even with total freedom of speech and a dominant middle class, Britain’s elite public schools are thriving. Oxbridge is still celebrated as the pinnacle of educational excellence. The monarchy is revered and indeed hailed as the brand ambassadors for UK incorporated. More than this, the Conservative Party, a bastion of the old elites, similar to our Democrat Party, is winning elections with David Cameron being an old Etonian and a member of Oxford’s infamous Bullingdon Club. Surely, that is something our elites would want to emulate. As they say, hope springs eternal.

Songkran Grachangnetara is an entrepreneur. He graduated from the London School of Economics and Columbia University. He can be reached at Twitter: @SongkranTalk

Songkran Grachangnetara


Songkran Grachangnetara is an entrepreneur. He graduated from The London School of Economics and Columbia University.

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