We need a British governance model, not North Korean
published : 9 Sep 2015 at 04:25
newspaper section: News
Last week I was honoured to have been invited to speak at The Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand (FCCT), along with distinguished panelists like Khun Burin Kantabutra and ML Nattakorn Devakula. It was an evening of insightful discussion on the uncertain future Thailand faces, especially in light of the new constitution, which was evidently stillborn on Sunday.
So, the long and arduous process begins again in earnest, but this time with a new constitutional drafting committee, consisting of 21 members. Who's to say it won't be rejected again and we could forever be stuck in a Groundhog Day constitutional redrafting nightmare that will just never end?
At some point this evening, Queen Elizabeth II will become the longest reigning British monarch in history, surpassing Queen Victoria's 63 years, seven months and two days on the throne. What a monumental achievement. Though soft spoken and small in size, Her Majesty's stature both at home and abroad towers over presidents and prime ministers the world over.
Indeed, during Queen Elizabeth's illustrious reign over Britain and her Commonwealth, she has witnessed 13 Australian prime ministers, 11 Canadian prime ministers, 14 New Zealand prime ministers and 12 British prime ministers, the first of which was my favourite, the great man himself, Sir Winston Churchill. In an ever changing world, where secrecy and privacy for the monarchy have become rare commodities, Queen Elizabeth has hardly put a foot wrong. As head of state, representing the interests of Britain, Her Majesty has steadfastly conducted herself with decorum, reacting to gaffes by other heads of states like water off a duck's back.
In 1992 the Australian prime minister, Paul Keating earned the name "The Lizard of Oz", after breaking royal protocol by putting his arm around the Queen, who took the faux pas in her stride. The Queen is also known for her dry sense of humour. Testament to this is a royal audience during the Persian Gulf War with Sir Edward Heath, the former Conservative prime minister. After meeting Saddam Hussein on a visit to Iraq, Heath keenly encouraged other heads of state to do likewise; the Queen was known to jokingly remind Heath that he was expendable but the others were not.
There is an enormous amount this military regime can learn from Great Britain and her institutions. We don't need to reinvent the wheel. Far too often this government looks to China to find inspiration and guidance for a model that suits Thai society. Where in fact, a far more preferable model for us, is that proud island nation that has imparted so much of its traditions to the modern world of today. British values such as freedom of speech, tolerance and fair play are not good because they are British, they are exceptional because they work.
I confess, I am writing from a position of some bias. I am after all, an unapologetic and unrelenting Anglophile. Yes, Britain's history like many other nations is rife with sins of the fathers, and ridden with hypocrisy, which no one can deny. But the most profound lesson Queen Elizabeth II has taught the world is that all nations and institutions must not fear change, but embrace it. We must not try and eliminate dissenting voices; instead we should create an environment where differences can be discussed in a civilised manner. But most important of all, we must remain an inclusive society where sacred traditions and institutions of old like the monarchy can live alongside modern arrangements that have more pronounced democratic credentials.
Thailand is facing an internal struggle for its very soul. The choices we make now will determine whether our children live in relative harmony, or whether they will become the discontents of tomorrow. It is high time that some of my fellow British-educated Thais started to espouse some of the values they were sent so far away and at great cost to learn. I vehemently believe that the authoritarian model, the despotic model, the China Model or the North Korean Model, is not the right one for Thailand.
I believe that humans cannot be reduced to mere units of economic production like in China. Nor can we fulfill our highest potential whilst being imprisoned by a state, like in North Korea. Human beings, if given a choice, will always want to live their lives with dignity, free to make their own choices, and allowed to pursue a life they deem worthy for themselves and their families.
Our draft constitution by the CDC has now been rejected. It's time to draft another. Let's have a British public school boy, Oxbridge educated, and an unapologetic Anglophile, former prime minister Anand Panyarachun, lead the drafting process in a transparent, inclusive and democratic manner for a change. After all, I seem to remember that the last one Mr Anand helped draft, is still the only one referred to as "The People's Constitution".
Songkran Grachangnetara is an entrepreneur. He graduated from The London School of Economics and Columbia University. He can be reached at Twitter: @SongkranTalk
Songkran Grachangnetara is an entrepreneur. He graduated from The London School of Economics and Columbia University.