Suthep seeks dictatorship

Suthep seeks dictatorship

A mass protest to force change is a proper response to a government that shamelessly abuses its power. A display of “people’s power” is a righteous way to express opposition. It is legitimate to demand an election to force out and replace a government that defies popular will. But protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban’s intended takeover of “sovereign power”, including appeals for royal assent, is more than just a step too far; it is sheer dictatorship.

Whatever Mr Suthep’s controversial background and motives, the mass rally he led against the wholesale amnesty bill last November was part of democracy. When the government abused majority rule by secretly changing the content of the draft amnesty bill and sneaking it through parliamentary procedures to pass it when the whole city was asleep at 4am, the public had the right to be angry, and to protest.

The amnesty bill push came after a string of the government’s winner-takes-all policies that defied ethics — particularly the opaque rice and water management schemes. Enough is enough, hundreds of thousands of people shouted as they answered Mr Suthep’s call to fill the streets of the capital to kill the amnesty bill.

It worked, as democracy should. The government promised to shelve the bill for good. But the genie was already out of the bottle. Mr Suthep refused to go home. His calls for reform — which included decentralisation, elected provincial governors and community police — struck a chord with a public desperate for change.

But in a democracy, a change of power must be carried out through an election. Through the Democrats' Blue Sky and other anti-Thaksin Shinawatra cable TV stations, however, the reform-before-election rhetoric has become the protesters’ mantra while hate speech is trumpeted to deepen political divides and make the country more vulnerable to political violence.

Instead of letting elections take their course, Mr Suthep, as leader of the People’s Democratic Reform Committee, engineered the blockades of the Feb 3 election and insisted on an 18-month long interruption for the so-called "people’s council" to map out reform measures and change the rules of the game before a new election can take place.

To believe Mr Suthep’s grand plan, for which he refuses to reveal any details, requires total trust in him. Such trust is not possible if the person in question betrays their promise.

Throughout the past five months, Mr Suthep has been telling his faithful crowd that he would promptly stop the mass rally once Yingluck Shinawatra steps down. That he would end all political involvement and turn his back on politics for good.

Last Saturday, he betrayed his own promise. Feeling elated at the prospect of the impeachment of the Yingluck government, he declared he would represent the sovereign power and nominate the name of a new prime minister to His Majesty the King and countersign the royal approval himself.

Mr Suthep is not only going too far, he is also revealing his naked political ambition which will plunge the country into a dangerous new round of political chaos.

We are facing a political stalemate in a deep political divide. The only way forward to maintain social cohesion and the economy is a political compromise. Mr Suthep's reform agenda can happen only when it is inclusive, involving all sectors including the Pheu Thai Party and the red-shirt movement.

Mr Suthep’s latest move is no different than the winner-takes-all tactics of Thaksin, which will trigger fierce, even violent repercussions. His supporters should realise that if they allow him to push ahead, the country is heading down a dictatorial and bloody path.

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