Regime strives to keep trump election hand
The impeachment of former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra has revealed the immediate future of Thai politics.
Predictability will be the name of the game. The uneasy calm brought along by a regime of militarisation keen on development projects will prevail for at least a few more years, until a new cataclysmic factor kicks in.
The overall atmosphere will be that of continued floundering — impassive and underachieving. It will be a politics of banality, of having to make do with a slow burn.
What about democracy? Yeah, what about it? Ms Yingluck, who has made history as both the country's first female PM and the first to have been impeached, was going for drama when she lamented the death of democracy at last week's vote to remove her retroactively from office.
The former PM — or the former PM who is no longer qualified to be PM — simply displayed how she was way behind the curve. After all that has happened — her party's shameless attempt to pass the amnesty bill to whitewash everyone involved in political conflicts during the past many years, the People's Democratic Reform Committee good-people-block-an-election protests and the May 22 coup — it's past time to categorise any political acts under such ostentatious terms like democracy, the rule of law or reconciliation.
These high-flying concepts are no longer relevant to Thailand. What has happened in the country during the past many years has culminated in a game of power, pure and simple.
It's ridiculous for the military junta or the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) it appointed to cite due process in its impeachment of Ms Yingluck when it is they who toppled her government by force and abolished the constitution. It is sickening, all the same, for Ms Yingluck and the Pheu Thai side to keep equating themselves with the force of democracy, when they profusely abused the mandate themselves.
Once stripped of these pretentious layers, Thai politics is but a tussle between powerful people. The impeachment of Ms Yingluck, which will result in her being banned from politics — possibly for life — has shown the ruling junta will openly attempt to neuter the electoral power of the Thaksin side from now on.
Do not forget that another set of impeachment cases is pending in the NLA against more than 200 former Pheu Thai MPs for their roles in supporting an amendment to the 2007 charter, which has already been ruled as unconstitutional.
The party will be weakened beyond recognition if almost all of its former MPs are barred from running in the next election.
On top of that, a criminal case is being processed against Ms Yingluck for dereliction of duty in the rice-pledging scheme. If found guilty, the former PM could face a 10-year jail term. Trust in the Pheu Thai Party's policy platform, once its strength in gathering votes especially from the rural poor, will dwindle.
As the military chips away at Thaksin's vote-winning ability on the one hand, it will cement its stay in politics possibly as a peace guarantor on the other. As Amorn Wanichwiwat, a member of the National Reform Assembly, told Matichon last week, it's likely that a special clause will be put in the new charter which will allow the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) to maintain its power both in terms of overseeing national security and ensuring the reform process will proceed as planned.
If so, the next election which some people see as a chance for the Thaksin side to return to power through the same old method of winning at the ballot box no longer seems to hold that promise.
In fact, if it's true the junta will keep its power behind the next government then the new poll really does not mean anything.
The military junta has at least one and a half years from now to make sure the new charter comes out the way it wants, to go after politicians from the opposite side and keep their heads low. In the meantime, the government may sign up for a few more infrastructural projects to keep people's hopes afloat as they wait for liberty to return.
The degree of militarisation will only deepen in the country in the years to come. Security concerns will worm their way into more of our everyday activities. Is it the price to pay for stability? The military would love us to think so.
Actually, it would be better for us to stop thinking altogether and just ride along with the make-believe politics of normality set against real and unresolved tensions just waiting to erupt.
Atiya Achakulwisut is Contributing Editor, Bangkok Post.
Columnist for the Bangkok Post
Atiya Achakulwisut is a columnist for the Bangkok Post.