Crisis panel reveals PM's guiding hand

Crisis panel reveals PM's guiding hand

Who needs an electoral democracy when there is Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha's "roadmap"?

It is no longer a surprise why the premier has repeatedly said that he will stick to his roadmap to democracy and not heed calls from ingenious cheerleaders to stay in power for two more years to complete national reforms.

As the situation unfolds, it should dawn on the PM's cheerleaders that he does not need their pitiable help. The leader is the equivalent of Ethan Hunt from the Mission Impossible force. He already thought everything through before taking action.

The "roadmap" is revealing itself to be more than what most people understand it to be. Yes, you will get a new constitution. Yes, you will return to elections, hailed as the lynchpin of democracy. Yes, you will eventually have your democracy, only it will be a guided one.

What the PM said back in February -- to write into the charter a mechanism to ensure reforms are carried through by the next few governments, only makes sense now the so-called "crisis committee" has taken on some shape in the draft charter.

Last week, the Chairman of the Constitution Drafting Committee, Borwornsak Uwanno, proposed the special crisis committee be established to oversee the reform and reconciliation strategy.

The panel, comprised of the PM, House and Senate Speaker, leaders of the armed forces and police chief among others, will remain in place for five years after the charter is promulgated.

What is special, and controversial, about the plainly-named National Committee on Reform and Reconciliation Strategy is the panel may decide by a vote of two-thirds among its members if the country is in a "crisis" that requires its intervention.

The committee will then have power over the legislative and executive branches. All its decisions will be considered lawful and final.

Politicians have slammed the crisis panel as undemocratic, an attempt to allow military leaders to stage future coups without having to roll out tanks. Gen Prayut and his cheerleaders, however, defend it as a necessary tool to facilitate reform efforts and prevent future violence.

The "crisis panel" corresponds with the PM's remarks over the past few weeks that whoever the new police chief and army commander are, they must be able to function in a "special" situation.

Gen Prayut never explained what the "special situation" is actually referring to. But it is now obvious the premier does not think the next few years will be business as usual, or democracy as usual.

Another proposal gaining momentum alongside the crisis panel idea is for the CDC to add a question in the charter referendum over whether a national government for reconciliation should be created, and if so, work for four years after the charter takes effect.

It's believed the national government proposal is based on the assumption that if the two main political parties -- Pheu Thai and Democrats -- work together in the same administration, it would generate positive vibes.

CDC members seem to think that if the titans shake hands, their followers will start turning to face one another too.

It does not matter whether people will agree with the reconciliation government proposal or not. What matters is that by tracking down and connecting the dots, it is clear what Gen Prayut has had in mind all along in his so-called roadmap.

His cheerleaders have got it wrong. The premier does not want reforms before election. His vision is about reforms guiding the elections or electoral politics as a whole.

Under this assumption, the PM will be true to his word that he will not seek to extend his time in administrative power and he will let Thais go to the polls after the charter is approved.

What has been left unsaid, however, is there will be a guide directing the nation's path towards the kind of democracy that Gen Prayut and the military regime want for Thailand.

The framework can be in the form of an electoral system that favours a weak coalition government, a national reconciliation government or a super-body to guide future governments on what they can do. If one proposal fails to win public approval, another will be put forward that will serve the same purpose.

My only disappointment is that the roadmap is not a Mission Impossible movie. It does not need so many disguises or twists in the plot to make for a gripping experience. The roadmap would be best laid out in full details for the public to view. It may not be as fun but at least it will be fair that way.

Atiya Achakulwisut is Contributing Editor, Bangkok Post.

Atiya Achakulwisut

Columnist for the Bangkok Post

Atiya Achakulwisut is a columnist for the Bangkok Post.

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