Thai foreign minister calls for reform of the monarchy
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Thai foreign minister calls for reform of the monarchy

On April 12, the Thai Foreign Minister Kasit spoke at The Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), The Johns Hopkins University* and the topic was “Political and Economic Developments in Thailand”. WMV Video of the event is available from here and a MP3 can be downloaded from here.

His comments both on Thaksin and the monarchy made numerous headlines. For example, AP:

In heated comments on the sidelines of a global nuclear summit, Kasit Piromya compared Thaksin, who was ousted in a 2006 coup, to 20th century dictators Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin and to the terror group al-Qaida.
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/>”He’s a bloody terrorist,” Kasit told a small group of academics and reporters.

BP: But actually, there was more to the speech than this so wish to focus on that.

All comments will be indicated with the minutes and seconds note of the beginning of Kasit’s comments (i.e 23:15 indicates the comments of Kasit that are transcribed begin at 23 minutes and 15 seconds of the MP3 audio). This is a rough transcript. His real comments on Thailand do not start until the 29 minute mark.

From Kasit’s opening speech on recent political development in Thailand including the monarchy (30:55-35:27):

The positive sign of Thai political development is the ordinary people, the famers, the labourers, the workers participating in the political process as opposed to Thailand 15 years or 20 years ago where political actors were confined to the bureaucrats, to some of the business people, to some of the the professional politicians, to some of the military officers. I just want to say this that Thai politics, 20-30 years was like a basketball team constituting only five players per team, but now is more like American football with more players. And it is messy because we used to know about the rules and regulations of the basketball games, but now we have to learn the rules and regulations of the American football team [BP: he means “game” instead of “team”] and that is the process.

We haven’t found a formula, we haven’t settled down. We have been trying to settle the issue inside the parliament through the indirect democracy through the representatives inside the parliament was not quite successful. So there is now more of a direct democracy of direct participation of interested groups of various groups in the society through the street or through the open expression outside of parliament. We haven’t found the right formula. We haven’t found the right compromise. Hopefully, with the traumatic violent experiences that we will come through we can have a democracy that combines representative democracy with a direct democratic participation. More to the tune of Lichtenstein or to the Swiss model combined with the UK parliamentary system. It’s still an unfinished symphony. It is not yet finalized, but we are in the process.

And I do not know the outcome, but I remain optimistic that we will be able to have all the yellow, the red, the blue, the pink and so on, the green, the white coming to the negotiating table in the course of the next few days and talk to one another about what type of monarchial institution that we would like to be. I think we have to talk about the institution of the monarchy. How it would have to reform itself to the modern globalised world? Like what the British or the Dutch or the Danish or the Lichtenstein monarchy has gone through to adjust itself to the modern world.

What would be the role of the military? What are the prerequisites of the political parties? How do you channel the wishes of the farmers, the workers, the office workers and so on in the whole political process? How do we make the various stakeholders participate in the political affairs, in the social affairs and so on? How are their voices to be heard? What would be the compromise formulas be? What would be the forum that could come out with a consensus and so on that we do not have recourse to the street violence and so on? So it is a process that we have to go through and I think we should be brave enough to go through all of this and to talk about even the taboo subject of the institution of the monarchy. We have to be like the Lichtenstein or the Luxembourgs that have gone through that. Everything is now becoming in the open so it would not have been hidden inside the Yahoo and the Google and so on. Sort of the undercurrent and under the table political controversies and being honest with each other. Let’s have a discussion: what type of society would we like to be? What type of democratic society would we like to be?

BP: Government to negotiate with the reds and others over the role of the monarchy? No wonder Panitan was quick to deny this. NYT:

“The government has no comment on this speech,” said Panitan Wattanayagorn, the chief government spokesman. “It is not an official policy. It is his personal statement.

BP: Honestly, am a bit surprised by his comments as can hardly find anything that BP disagrees with, but well I am a little skeptical that Kasit is just saying this as that is what he believes the foreign audience wants to hear.

Then we have the Q&A for the remaining 30 minutes:

  • Kasit makes a distinction between “terrorists” and genuine protesters.
  • He says the red shirts will not be be able to force the government to dissolve the parliament as this government is “legitimate”.
  • There is an impasse in the sense that there is no willingness from the government to really use force to disperse the reds… But the bloodshed that occurred, I just want to repeat that our soldiers were not armed. They only thing they have is the plastic bullets, but not the real bullets so I think there were third-hand people and so on (52:54-53:30).

BP: From what BP heard initially from some journalists, the government position went from (1) no live bullets, to (2) yes, live bullets but only firing in the air, and to (3) yes, live bullets firing directly at some protesters, but only single shots and not automatic gunfire (this last one actually appears to be basically correct for soldiers dressed in fatigues). This is the first time that BP has heard with BP’s own ears someone from the government. You can see the initial stage as presented by Kasit. It seems he had not received the latest talking points and was sticking to (1) back then…

Kasit continues and talks about matters for political negotiation between all sides “then of course what I have alluded to, we talk about the lese majeste law, that was a bone of contention… or the institution of the monarchy. This would be one example. We really have to talk about the institution” (55:54-.56:15).

BP: Is Kasit offering to put reform of lese majeste law on the table for political negotiations? How genuine is Kasit?

* Does this make Kasit a member of the Johns Hopkins cabal?