We want to put our house in order
Which prime minister of Thailand has twice been ousted from the seat of power by a coup? Thaksin Shinawatra. He was overthrown on Sept 19, 2006 in a coup staged by Gen Sonthi Boonyagalin. At the time he was in New York City attending the United Nations General Assembly. The second time was on May 22, when Army commander-in-chief Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha staged a surprise coup only three days after he declared martial law across the country.
Although Niwattumrong Bunsongpaisan was acting caretaker prime minister, it is an open fact that Thaksin was de facto prime minister, running the government through Skype or other forms of communication since his younger sister, Yingluck Shinawatra was premier - de jure, of course - until she lost her post courtesy of the Constitutional Court.
On the day of the coup, the fugitive de facto prime minister was said to be in Singapore issuing instructions to the government during the talks brokered by Gen Prayuth to work out a compromise solution to the political stalemate.
Thaksin, it was reported, told the government not to back down on its demand for an early election as a solution to the political conflict. The hardline and uncompromising stand prompted the military takeover and the suspension of the Constitution, except for the provisions regarding the Monarchy.
The power grab by the military does not offer a solution to the political stalemate, although it has succeeded in putting an end to the protests by the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) and the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD).
Bombings and shootings of PDRC supporters, which had occurred almost every night for the past several months, completely ceased after the declaration of martial law on May 20.
During the six-month protests by the PDRC and the many armed attacks against protesters, the police and the Centre for the Administration of Peace and Order (Capo) failed to arrest any culprits or seize any illegal arms.
But during the first two days of the enforcement of martial lawn, the military seized a sizeable cache of illegal weapons and explosives.
Criticism has steadily poured in from the international community and foreign media about the military takeover with calls for a quick return to democracy. US Secretary of State John Kerry, for instance, said the coup was unjustified and warned that the US$10 million military aid to the Thai military might be suspended.
Mr Kerry urged the immediate restoration of a civilian government, a return to democracy, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms and early elections "that reflect the will of the people".
It is undeniable that a coup is undemocratic, unjustified and will not resolve the conflict. But I doubt the legions of Thais who took part in the Bangkok Shutdown rallies to protest against the Thaksin regime will agree with Mr Kerry’s assertion that the May 22 coup was totally unwarranted and that elections should be held quickly.
At least as far as we can see, a potentially violent confrontation between the two rival groups, PDRC and UDD - and even the much-feared civil war as wildly predicted by some foreign media - have been thwarted for now and perhaps during the period the military is in power.
Shootings and bombings in the capital have stopped since the imposition of martial law - although it remains questionable whether peace or a semblance of peace is temporary or permanent.
Here are some questions that I would like to raise with those who are strongly against the coup on the grounds that it is totally unjustified.
How do you stop the shootings and bombings which have so far claimed more than 25 lives and injured almost 1,000 innocent people if the law enforcement agencies such as the police and Capo are reluctant to do the job that they are supposed to do?
How do you stop vote buying? And how can you stop a party which is in full control of local administrators such as kamnan and village heads from using these men and women to help in their election without certain reforms being made to the electoral process?
Don’t you feel ashamed if your elected representatives fly overseas to meet a fugitive to ask for political posts in the government or to seek his blessings? And how do you deal with these MPs and senators?
How do you deal with your elected representatives if they blindly endorse trillion baht mega projects, backed by only a few fact sheets and completely lacking feasibility studies or public hearings, simply because they were told to do so? Mind you, many of these hopeless MPs will stage a comeback in parliament if an election is held soon, as demanded by the international community and foreign media.
Many Thai voters boycotted the Feb 2 election or cast "no vote" ballots because they wanted changes to the election laws first before going to the polls because they did not want these politicians back in parliament. And without reforms being made, it is believed many of them will boycott the election again.
Almost a decade of colour-coded political conflict and after more than six months of protests against the government, many Thais have a clear understanding of democracy but in a different light from the western perception of it. To them, democracy is not all about elections and going to the polls and then leaving the fate of their country in the hands of the elected representatives. Or giving them a blank cheque so that they can fill in any numbers they wish.
Democracy is about more than just elections. It is also about accountability, transparency and good governance. And since many of the politicians do not believe in and do not have accountability, transparency and good governance desires, many voters will not go to the polls without reforms that hold their representatives accountable.
They do not just yearn for the return of democracy but also for a truly responsive and accountable parliament and government.
A government that shamelessly cheated the poor farmers through the exploitation of the rice pledging scheme and caused extensive damage to the state's coffers and rice exports and yet without any sense of guilt does not deserve a chance of a political comeback.
Would all of you who oppose our attempt to fix our problems and to put our house in order first before the country goes to the polls prefer to have a corrupt government?
Veera Prateepchaikul is a former Bangkok Post editor.
Former Bangkok Post Editor, political commentator and a regular columnist at Post Publishing.