“Overthrowing the elected government – either by a coup or by street demonstrations – would be a severe blow to Thailand’s democracy”, says Rungrawee Chalermsripinyorat, Crisis Group’s Thailand Analyst. “It will do nothing to resolve the deep political polarisation that is tearing Thailand apart”.
The Constitutional Court disqualified Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej from office on 9 September. But the coalition of opposition forces under the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) continues to demand the government resign, and they have occupied Government House. Every day the standoff continues, political divisions become more intractable – and another coup becomes more likely. The crisis in Bangkok is crippling the economy, diverting attention from key issues such as the insurgency in the South and undermining Thailand’s chairmanship of ASEAN.
The first priority is to restore the rule of law and the authority of the elected government – not because it is perfect, but for the sake of Thailand’s stability and democracy. Senior figures should stop sending mixed messages and make clear their backing for the government and the rule of law. The PAD should end their illegal occupation of Government House, and army leaders should negotiate with them to ensure this happens. Negotiations should be backed by graduated steps by the police – short of force, drawing on a range of siege management techniques.
In the medium term, constitutional change is needed. The current constitution – drafted by a military-appointed assembly in 2007 – gives far too much power to the bureaucracy and courts to thwart the executive. A consultative and inclusive process is needed to determine the right balance between necessary checks and balances and giving the government enough authority to avoid total paralysis.
“Thailand is often a bellwether for the state of democracy in the region, and the international community should be deeply concerned about a return to military or elite rule”, says John Virgoe, Crisis Group’s South East Asia Project Director. “Thailand’s partners – and especially ASEAN countries – should convey a clear message that another coup would be unacceptable.”
BP: I agree entirely!
btw, will this result in another op-ed in the Bangkok Post?