Chaos and confusion
Why has our illustrious leader stated that the recent bombings were to "cause chaos and confusion", insinuating that it was the absent ex-prime ministers' followers who are to blame? This statement is in itself inflammatory, and can lead to chaos and confusion. Shooting from the lip again!
RTP needs to change
Re: "RTP seeks wiretap approvals without court orders", (BP, Aug 11).
The cabinet should deny the Royal Thai Police's request to wiretap criminal suspects without having to wait for the court's permission to speed up investigations. The RTP's request would cover crimes with a statute of limitations of at least three years.
The RTP is famous (or infamous?) for seeking guilty parties with little regard for the law. For example, the two defendants in the most foul rape and murder of two British tourists on Koh Tao were sentenced to death based on a DNA analysis in a police lab that was not certified to do such analysis.
Also, "confessions" used in court were evidently taken before the suspects had been informed of their Miranda rights -- thereby making the "confessions" inadmissible under Thai Criminal Code Section 134/4. In addition, the RTP needs drastic reform, otherwise it should not be trusted to handle the added powers it requests.
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has insisted that he still needs to retain Section 44 of the interim charter, giving him absolute power to ensure law and order. He should now use those powers for police reform. For starters, he should boost police compensation, decentralise the RTP, and make them accountable to the localities whose citizens they protect and serve. Then, and only then, can we consider the RTP's wiretap request.
Don't abuse the power
Re: "RTP seeks wiretap approvals without court orders", (BP, Aug 11).
Despite the less than optimal voter turnout (only 55%) for the referendum, the outcome was clear: the Prayut Chan-o-cha administration and the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) were given a mandate to continue reforming the country in line with their goals, and gear up for an election. But that does not and should not confer them with unlimited power to do whatever pleases them.
Of concern to me is the proposed internet single gateway policy that was designed to control websites and internet usage; the national e-payment that will link all financial transactions to a person's ID, making it readily available to scrutinise anyone's financial transaction history; and the latest of all -- the warrantless wiretaps which the police have sought under the pretext of national security.
Infringement of individuals' privacy and the potential abuse of power are blatant. I urge Gen Prayut's administration and the NCPO to exercise their power with restraint and caution marked by accountability, despite the positive referendum outcome for them. The courts' role should be central in deciding whose phones should be tapped. Checks and balances must still be put in place.
I stress that I'm neither discrediting the NCPO nor their ideas. Extenuating circumstances do exist, which I fully support. I wish that more discussions and time should be given as these propositions will have huge implications for all of us for years to come. Once these decisions are made, they will be difficult to be reversed, if at all.
Power that is exercised with great caution and humility, after all, is more potent and respectable than power gone wild.
Beware the Pokemons
Re: "SIM cards to track foreigners," (BP, Aug 10).
The government's proposal to ensure its own SIMs are used in tourists' mobile phones is duly Orwellian but nonetheless misdirected. A more pressing threat to national security, sanity, peace, law and order and fundamental pedestrian discipline comes from elusive and ephemeral Pokemon characters -- who have insidiously invaded parks, shopping centres and other public and semi-private spaces throughout the nation -- and from those who obsessively hunt them at the risk of disappearing down uncovered manholes, falling into temporary excavations, trespassing onto unmarked graves and colliding with wayward vehicles.
The apparel and gestures of many of these furtive Pokemoniacal icons clearly convey implicitly contentious political opinions, or may readily be exploited by dark forces for that purpose.
I am told that Pokemons cannot be prevented from gathering in large numbers to incite anti-social behaviour or otherwise. As interim measures, they should be registered at local district offices and, where necessary, subjected to attitude adjustment.
Re: "SIM cards to track foreigners", (BP, Aug 10).
For the first time in my understanding of Thailand, I am truly shocked. The new idea to track foreign people's phones and make them use special SIM cards, is not only a gross invasion of their privacy but a total violation of people's rights to privacy and freedom -- in addition to being a huge PR mistake for the country. It is certainly not going to help track any form of criminal activity, as the majority of criminals in Thailand are Thais, not foreign tourists. And secondly, any criminal will simply not use them. I support Thailand and I support their laws and regulations, but when it goes this far, I only think of Thailand as another North Korea.
This SIM card idea is one thing you simply have got very wrong. It is simply Orwellian and a complete waste of money. So much for democracy. The only benefactors here, are the telecommunications companies, who will rub their hands with glee at the thought of all those millions of SIM cards someone will pay them for.
I read with confusion reports that authorities are investigating those people caught destroying their ballot paper in polling stations during the last referendum. If it is proved that their intention was to make a political statement, they could face up to 10 years in jail.
I did not have the opportunity to read the draft charter or its summary, which was probably the same for the vast majority of Thais. So I am not certain whether the draft charter guarantees freedom of speech and liberty of individuals like those who destroyed the ballot papers. Given that every Thai should have received a summary prior to the vote, I did not see anybody at all with a copy.
Mr J Porter
Machine needs oiling
Re: "Let Thai electorate be referendum winners", and "Thais should become less pragmatic", (Opinion, Aug 12).
Both Thitinan Pongsudhirak and Wasant Techawongtham made interesting points about the outcome of the recent constitutional referendum. I would submit that it may be misleading to consider Thailand's political situation only in terms of a continuum from democracy to authoritarianism. Effective liberal democracies involve competitive democratic politics but also an ethos of liberalism and a strong, impartial judiciary, and it is this second element that Thailand currently lacks.
Just about every ideological position ends up looking like a religion sooner or later, and democracy is no exception. The fact is that perfect democracy is completely unworkable. One cannot poll the people on every decision that must be made, and even if this were possible, it would not be desirable.
On the other hand, the absence of competition in a democratic system is a recipe for disaster for obvious reasons. The objective must be to create a political system that works, enabling the public to choose representation but providing the checks and balances necessary to curtail thieves and demagogues.
Thailand needs to chart a course to a liberal democracy in which the people elect competent representatives who will at least attempt to run the country in the interests of the population as a whole.
For this to occur, institutions need to function effectively to safeguard the rights of the individual and to curtail the power of the rich and other elites, including the military and the various regional jao por-style bosses.
The challenge in Thailand, it seems to me, is that the culture is predominantly collectivist, making it difficult to develop this kind of liberal democracy, which foregrounds the rights of the individual. People tend to stick with their tribe and vote accordingly rather than see themselves as individual, rational actors.
In addition, they often do not trust the machinery of the state as a fair arbiter in legal disputes, for good reason -- the police and judiciary, too, represent various in-groups and cannot, therefore, be trusted as fair and impartial to individuals. Politicians often get themselves elected as part of a business strategy leading to wasteful corruption, faulty decision making and what is essentially a kleptocracy rather than a democracy.
There is, it seems to me, no quick fix for these cultural issues: a headlong rush to "full democracy" is unlikely to lead to anything more than yet another bout of authoritarian kleptocracy of the kind witnessed under Thaksin; equally, a "Thai-style democracy" overseen by the military seems just as unlikely to lead to fair and effective governance, for who will oversee the "good men" in the military. Only the emergence of a culture of liberalism, with strong and impartial institutions that protect the rights of the individual and hold the powerful to account will solve this impasse.
Fulfil our wish
Re: "How to start the post-poll healing process", (Opinion, Aug 10).
I couldn't agree more with former Asean secretary-general Surin Pitsuwan that the Thai people have made a convincing verdict in giving their "yes" votes for the draft constitution. Despite 33.5% of all eligible voters approving the charter, the results nevertheless showed the preference of the people.
Now, it is the duty of the military to fulfil the mandate assigned to them by the referendum.
First, the bad elements that have put the country at risk of failure -- both economically and politically -- must be dealt with by law fairly and squarely. Second, reconciliation must be attained through understanding and, if necessary, salvation.
Lastly, democracy, which is a must-have way of life for our future generations, must be given back within the next year or two.
Lost in the deep sea
There is a major issue with the workforce of the scuba diving industry in places, like Koh Tao -- where more people learn to dive than anywhere else in the world.
Thai-owned diving companies are required to rely heavily on international scuba diving instructors as there are few Thais qualified for the job.
The industry is seasonal and therefore these instructors need to move to different locations and work for different companies throughout the year. Applying for a work permit is a big ordeal for foreigners. Some instructors are able to receive work permits, however the majority are not -- leaving them vulnerable to the whims of Thai authorities.
As a result, local Thai businesses cannot work properly, while tourists and customers (Thais included) have had dive trips cancelled or postponed and dive instructors have been arrested.
Everybody loses here: Thai companies lose revenue and thus will pay less tax, dive instructors who are unable to obtain a work permit as they work seasonally are fined (and are not covered properly by insurance) and tourists trying to spend money are unable to and leave with a bad taste in their mouths.
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