They have turned to Prayut Chan-o-cha as though he was a movie hero, offering him their hearts and souls like teenagers drooling over a Korean pop star. They are led by Paiboon Nititawan, a former member of
the National Reform Council, who this past week reiterated his
commitment to ensuring that Prime Minister Prayut is returned in (or soon after) the election as head of government. Paiboon stood firm that his People Reform Party will join forces with other blocs and the 250 junta-appointed senators to back General Prayut as an outsider prime minister.
According to the Constitution pushed through by the junta, if the House of Representatives cannot reach consensus on selecting a prime minister, the Senate will effectively make the selection. Paiboon declared his party’s support for a candidate “who is not affiliated with any party – he should be neutral”. The logic is that politicians are fundamentally untrustworthy and are to blame for Thailand’s political division and other woes.
On the surface, Paiboon and company are responding to something they don’t like. They are not basing their platform on any principle or ideology that could provide the nation with the much-needed moral compass and equilibrium that all of us, regardless of political affiliation, could utilise in resolving our differences. They are also presenting a glaring contradiction: that the people they support came to power by ripping up the previous constitution.
And while the current constitution and the election arrangements favour the junta – the National Council on Peace and Order – it would be foolish of Paiboon’s party and other pro-junta parties to believe the military-appointed Senate will always and forever remain loyal to the armed forces. If Paiboon properly understood Thai political behaviour and culture, he would see that the senators, once fully fledged as politicians with a mandate to rule, will likely develop the same appetite for clinging to power as their fellow lawmakers in Parliament display.
The real questions are who will (or who can) keep these 250 senators’ appetites sated, and who will provide them the financial means to keep their dreams alive?
Instead of relying on people who lack the courage to tell the general he is naked, why doesn’t the NCPO come clean and tell us what it has in mind for Thailand over the long term? If the junta wants a mandate from the people, it needs to be straight with the people, instead of relying on proxies to keep Prayut at Government House as premier. Soldiers speak of duty and honour, but we wonder where the honour is in misleading the country.
What is the junta’s platform? Surely it has to be more than the 20-year reform strategy foisted upon an electorate that was kept in the dark and thus ill equipped to consider the ramifications. The grand plan came into effect this past week and already is drawing criticism from various quarters.
The junta thinks it can force people, with the threat of further military intervention, to follow this reform strategy. It doesn’t recognise the Catch-22 in this way of thinking. It doesn’t understand that it cannot earn a mandate from the people and at the same time continue with the form of governance that puts the rulers above the law.