Experts lash PDRC’s sovereign power bid

Experts lash PDRC’s sovereign power bid

Academics have derided anti-government protesters' plans to "reclaim sovereign power" as absurd, while warning that threats by pro-government groups to mobilise after Songkran were adding to the risk of bloodshed.

Thamrongsak Petchlertanan, assistant professor of history at Rangsit University, said People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) leader Suthep Thaugsuban's proposal to personally nominate an interim prime minister and countersign His Majesty the King's endorsement was unprecedented.

"This could be considered treason," he said. "We all know the idea has been floated to test the waters to see how society reacts, but it could cause damage if Suthep really proposed it and the King signed it off."

Mr Suthep earlier said "the people would reclaim sovereign power" if Ms Yingluck's status as caretaker prime minister was terminated by the Constitutional Court or the National Anti-Corruption Commission.

"Thai politics have degenerated," Mr Thamrongsak said. "On one hand we have the PDRC alliance with the military, judiciary and independent organisations as well as people of nobility; on the other hand we have the Pheu Thai-led government with its mass of red-shirt supporters and a slight edge in international support."

He noted that staging a coup had become the least desirable and workable measure, as competition was rife in the military as factions talk with potential future leaders.

"It's a game of mind-reading as much as it is about head-counting in the coming weeks. But there's also a chance of the conflict culminating in a bloody confrontation once staunch supporters of either side become desperate or are pushed to the opposite corner and are plunged into infighting," the academic warned.

He was also concerned that the chronic political conflict has demoralised important institutions such as the judiciary and law enforcement agencies.

"Bureaucrats and the general public are losing faith in the rule of law. It's a pity more people also ignore court rulings," Mr Thamrongsak said.

Michael Nelson, chairman of Walailak University's Master's of Southeast Asian Studies programme, said there was still a way out of the political crisis, but the Democrat Party would need to bite the bullet.

"Sovereign power derives from the sovereignty of the entire people, not certain groups of people, and the way to define sovereignty is through elections," Mr Nelson said.

"There is no other legitimate and credible way ... Because the majority of the people never go out on the street to support either side, the ballot box is the only venue."

He noted that Mr Suthep's sovereign power claim was nonsensical, likening it to the Democrats' decision to walk away from the electoral system. Perhaps Democrat leaders, he said, were too afraid or considerate of Mr Suthep.

Mr Nelson said the Democrats' talk of free and fair election conditions being needed for the party to return to the constitutional path was simply an excuse, noting that the Feb 2 election was widely regarded as being free and credible.

"The only way to solve or restore the parliamentary system is for the Democrat Party to return to the constitutional path through elections and offer their reform policies to get support from the people," Mr Nelson said.

Chaiwat Satha-anand, professor of political science at Thammasat University, said he remained hopeful that competition to see which side could draw the most supporters onto the streets would not result in violence. "It's perhaps a basic and direct measure to weigh which group gets more supporters. But the point is that there are alternatives to count the voices without going onto the streets," said Mr Chaiwat.

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