Green for go, but we still need a yellow and a red

Green for go, but we still need a yellow and a red

The colour of the day and for many more days to come over the next 18 months is, I guess we all know, green. It does not stand for environmental groups but the military.

More than half — or 105 to be exact — of the 200 members of the National Legislative Assembly announced last week are military personnel (67 from the army, 19 each from the air force and the navy), 10 from the police and 85 civilians representing academia, civilian bureaucracy and the business sector. Not a single representative from the rice farmers, the labour force, the media or the middle-class civilian population.

Perhaps Wallop Tangkananurak, or Khru Youi, of the Foundation for Children should represent all those sectors which have been marginalised by the National Council for Peace and Order.

There are people who say the military is justified in having the biggest say in the NLA because it was they who staged the May 22 coup which toppled the government of prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra and brought an end to the street violence in Bangkok that had gone on since last November. But former senator Wanchai Sornsiri, a member of the so-called Group of 40 Senators, thinks otherwise. He said the NLA should be a forum for debate and not an army club where the members are ordered to turn left or right by their superior.

The NCPO claims it wants to get things done quickly and smoothly and, therefore, it is necessary for it to retain a firm grip on power in the executive and legislative branches.

So the possible scenario in the parliament from now on is that most if not all the bills submitted by the interim government will sail through the NLA which will function as both the House of Representatives and the Senate — creating unusual speed for a parliament and with little or only perfunctory debate.

Reporters at the parliament who expect lively or the explosive debate, the kind which characterised normal parliamentary sessions in the past, will certainly be disappointed and may ask for reassignment to other news beats which are more exciting.

I am sorry for the farmers who do not have someone in the NLA who understands their problems and shares their destiny. Now that the rice pledging scheme has been scrapped, they are left to fend for themselves, although the NCPO has promised to come up with help to cut their production costs.

Hopefully, the men in green in the NLA will prove me wrong and do their job properly as they are supposed to and not just be a rubber stamp to keep some semblance of check-and-balance.

The media, although not represented in the parliament, should be allowed to do its job as a “watchdog” over the NCPO, the NLA, the interim government, the National Reform Council and the constitution drafting panel without unwarranted intervention from the NCPO. Meanwhile, the NCPO should be more open-minded and receptive to criticism and even opposing views which are rational and honest.

Academics and educational institutions such as Thailand Research and Development Institute should carry on with their usual in-depth analysis and criticism of government projects as they did with previous governments.

I am puzzled as to why the TDRI is so silent over the NCPO’s endorsement last week of the multi-billion baht infrastructure development projects, especially the development of two high-speed dual track trains for two routes — the Nong Khai-Korat-Saraburi, Laem Chabang-Map Ta Phut route, which is 737 kilometres long, and the Den Chai-Ban Pachi-Laem Chabang route, which is 655 kilometres long. Both projects are estimated to cost about 740 billion baht.

The TDRI was critical of the Yingluck government’s high-speed train projects, saying they were not cost effective and would require at least nine million passengers a year to stay afloat.

How about the NCPO-approved dual-track high-speed train projects with a price tag of 740 billion baht? Are they cost-effective? Can the service be affordable by, for instance, middle income-earners? Will they require nine million passengers per year to stay afloat?

During the era of Field Marshal Pibulsongkram, there was a popular saying: “Believe in the leader, the nation will prosper.” Now, we seem to be going along that path of following the leader. Of course, the performance of our leader, the NCPO, for the past two months has been OK. But it is just the beginning. There are at least 18 months to go.

We may give the NCPO a chance to prove its worth but our right to monitor its performance and make fair criticism should not be forfeited or muzzled in the spirit of mutual trust.

Veera Prateepchaikul is a former editor, Bangkok Post.

Veera Prateepchaikul

Former Editor

Former Bangkok Post Editor, political commentator and a regular columnist at Post Publishing.

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