Academics brand people's council 'fascism'

Academics brand people's council 'fascism'

AFDD says elections only option for a democracy

A newly-formed group of academics calling themselves the Assembly for the Defence of Democracy (AFDD) says protesters' calls for a people's council sound like pure fascism.

It has called on all sides of the conflict to express their political will through elections instead.

The AFDD said no one should support the "fascist" people's council demanded by anti-government protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban.

The group made the call alongside members of Thammasat University's Enlightened Jurists Group, known as Nitirat, on Constitution Day yesterday. It marks a stark contrast to views expressed by the Council of University Presidents of Thailand (CUPT) and Mr Suthep's own group, the People's Democratic Reform of Council (PDRC).

The AFDD said it opposed the proposal by the university presidents group to install an interim government, saying such moves are unconstitutional and undemocratic.

Kasian Tejapira, a core AFDD member and Thammasat University associate professor of history, said any democratic nation must use democratic means to contain and limit corruption.

He added that instead of using social forces to reform political parties and free them from control of capitalist power, which was the ideal, Mr Suthep proposes giving absolute power to the elite and the military.

"Imposing only their own values and replacing the people's elected government with an elite- and middle-class-nominated 'people's council' would only pave the way for bloodshed and violence," said Mr Kasian.

The PDRC's reasons for wanting to uproot the so-called Thaksin regime and get rid of corruption do not justify its moves to replace an elected government, said Worachet Pakeerut, a core member of the AFDD and the Nitirat group.

"Other countries have spent decades or more trying corruption cases, so why should Thailand take shortcuts? All mature societies need to go through these painful but just processes to eradicate malaise," said Mr Worachet.

He also said it was ridiculous to call those who voted for ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra-backed parties, under whatever banners, mere pawns of vote-buying.

"The people have repeatedly chosen these parties and the continuous determination of the voters cannot simply be regarded as the result of vote-buying," Mr Kasian said.

Mr Worachet said Section 3 of the constitution can be interpreted as saying the King, as head of state, exercises the sovereign power of the people through the parliament, the cabinet and court.

Therefore, he said, there are no circumstances in which Section 3 can be used to exercise sovereign power to establish a people's council as claimed by Mr Suthep. Their attempt to establish such a council without amending the constitution _ which would be the right course of action _ will harm the country's administrative power by an unconstitutional act. It was equivalent to a coup, Mr Worachet said.

Thanet Abhornsuvan, of Thammasat University's Asean Programme, said while the military has been acting somewhat democratically by staying neutral during the crisis, academics from the CUPT group have been behaving in an undemocratic way.

Piyabut Saengkanokkul, an AFDD and Nitirat member, said the idea of setting up a people's council comprising members of various professions was an idea inherited from fascist corporatism, as seen in Italy during the period of Benito Mussolini's fascist dictatorship.

Mussolini, Mr Piyabut said, amended the law in 1928 so his government could comprise people from different fields. This government was an important mechanism that ultimately led Italy into a totalitarian dictatorship, he said.

Prajak Kongkirati, a Thammasat political science lecturer, called on all sides to proceed with elections, respect the rules of democracy, and not allow any sovereign power to be bestowed on any intermediaries.

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