Thai junta lays groundwork for its own guided democracy

Originally published at Siam Voices on February 16, 2015

As the Thai military government pushes ahead with its so-called reform plans, the legal groundwork in form of some sort of reform continuation body is being laid out so that the generals will have enough power to influence Thai politics for the foreseeable future.

One line often purported by the Thai military junta is the need to “reform” Thailand’s dysfunctional political system before there can be any return to elections or democracy in general. But one of the main motivations of the generals and their allies in the all-appointed government bodies, including the “National Reform Council” (NRC) and the “Constitutional Drafting Committee” (CDC), is to permanently exert control over an eventually elected government.

And exactly this seems to be happening:

Constitution drafters decided yesterday to set up a national reform body and empower it by adding it to the new constitution, so reform work and plans will be continued by future governments.

Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC) member Kamnoon Sidhisamarn proposed the idea of setting up the organisation, reasoning that if the agency’s role is spelled out in the new charter, the National Reform Council (NRC)’s work would not be wasted.

“With this national reform body, NRC proposals can be synchronised not just for now, but for the next five years,” he said.

CDC agrees to set up, empower new reform body“, The Nation, February 14, 2015

Basically it seems that they’re creating an extra-parliamentary body that will be constitutionally enshrined and it also seems that they’re going to stay longer than the usual four-year term of a government (unless they’re going to change that as well), which hints at the long-standing problem in Thai politics that no elected government has stayed long enough in office to see their planned polices through, let alone even survive a full term (with the notable exception of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra).

To ensure that the reforms of the junta are actually being carried out, the drafters have put in these constitutional failsafes:

Under the proposals, those responsible for implementing reforms would be obliged to complete them within a specified time frame of between one and nine years.

The subcommittee has suggested that failure to complete reforms on schedule would constitute dereliction of duty — a criminal offence.

CDC backs reform safeguards“, Bangkok Post, February 13, 2015

That’s at least two consecutive terms to put the “reform” plans to actions – or else face charges. That’s apparently how the military junta and its government bodies doubles down on their project to fundamentally change the Thai political system and also to safeguard their undertaking, making a clear sign that the current powers-to-be are here to stay – even after a somewhat democratic election. Sounds familiar.