Some New Year's gifts that will just keep on giving
Since we are all in the holiday spirit, I'd like to single out a few people and institutions to give them a much needed gift and wish them luck for the approaching new year.
In my view, one of the most embarrassing organisations in Thailand today is the Election Commission (EC), headed by Somchai Srisutthiyakorn, which recently said his agency would file a lawsuit against those deemed accountable for the 3.8 billion baht cost of the voided election of Feb 2, 2014.
This is a lawsuit so absurd it is making Thailand a laughing stock. My gift to Mr Somchai this New Year is a mirror. The EC's behaviour during the February elections was nothing short of disgraceful, because although 23 million Thais, including myself, went to cast a ballot that day, numerous EC officials in certain southern constituencies didn't even bother to turn up and man the voting booths as duty dictates. So if Mr Somchai is looking for someone to sue for damages, I suggest he look in the mirror and start with himself and the organisation he claims to lead.
The National Anti-Corruption Commission also deserves a gift this New Year, and I'm buying all of them an i-watch — because they don't seem to be able to tell time. Yes, I realise they have done an excellent job by putting the rice pledging investigation of former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra on "easy pass" towards a guilty verdict by the courts, but why the Democrat Party's own rice scheme was put on the backburner for a few years (until the acquittal just over a week ago) has yet to be made clear to the public.
Moreover, in April 2013 the NACC took over a case from the DSI, launching a graft probe into the police stations fiasco, involving then deputy prime minister Suthep Thaugsuban and several high-ranking police officers. But after setting up panels and nearly two years of investigations, a case has yet to be filed for this scandalous and wasteful scheme.
The Royal Thai Police have consistently acted against the public interest and shown themselves to be a serious menace to civilised society. Many of the prevailing scams and rackets we see on our streets, whether it be shaking down tourists, selling counterfeit merchandise, illegal gambling dens and drug trafficking, all have one thing in common: the police often turn a blind eye and in all probability directly profit.
Therefore, the crackdown on police corruption by the junta is welcome. But the police force requires genuine and radical structural remedies and not mere cosmetic retouching. So the only gift these rotten police officers deserve is a box of tissues, because after causing so much pain and misery to the public, it's about time they reflected on their acts and did some sobbing of their own.
On a rather positive note, I would like to send PM's Office Minister ML Panadda Diskul a dozen red roses. About a month ago I saw circulating on Instagram pictures of ML Diskul in full civil service uniform, actually waiting in line at the airport just like everybody else.
Predictably, many cynics saw this as a publicity stunt, but who cares? Whatever his real intentions were, this is exactly the kind of behaviour I would expect from those in public service. After all, it's the taxpayer that pays the salaries, and it is the taxpayer these guys should be serving.
Although I don't share his political leanings, ML Panadda for me is a breath of fresh air, but he should make sure all civil servants act with the same due reverence towards the public as he himself has demonstrated, because there is nothing more repulsive than a public servant who expects to be served and pandered to.
Last but not least I have a very special New Year gift for the Democrat Party. In the last six months the junta has stretched out its long tentacles to change our electoral system, the constitution, taxation and education — to mention just a few things. But one institution remains totally untouched and completely unfazed.
Despite consistently losing general elections to Thaksin Shinawatra-backed parties in recent times, the Democrat Party, it seems, thinks the most effective strategy for winning the next general poll is to run with the same tired leader, keep the same rigid party structure and regurgitate the same old strategies.
Just last week the Democrat Party was up to its old tricks again by filing a lese majeste lawsuit against former Chulalongkorn lecturer Suda Rungkapan because she wore black in the "auspicious" month of December as a protest against the Financial Restructuring Authority (FRA), which was set up by the Democrat-led administration of Chuan Leekpai.
Why don't sensible leaders like Korn Chatikavanij and Apirak Kosayodhin put a stop to this ridiculous circus? Because in my view it's absolutely despicable to abuse His Majesty the King's good name for the sole purpose of destroying and silencing a vocal political opponent.
Therefore, my gift to the Democrat Party is the revolutionary book by Charles Darwin called The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, because the message in this book is crystal clear: only those most adaptable to change end up surviving.
Songkran Grachangnetara is an entrepreneur and graduate of the London School of Economics and Columbia University. He can be reached at Twitter: @SongkranTalk