What should we make of the junta-sponsored forums held this past week across Thailand to introduce and solicit feedback on its 10-point draft “social contract,” as well as a 15-point addendum?
Why another “social contract” when the junta has already won passage for the nearly 300 articles in the constitution it sponsored? Was the 2017 charter’s 279 Articles too long or complicated for the average Joe or Somchai?
Then perhaps even 10 points are too much. Don’t fret, just focus on the three most relevant, which the military regime claims came from feedback by junta-abiding citizens.
Point one basically says all sides should work toward national reconciliation. Right, after more than three years of military dictatorship the junta has failed to bring about reconciliation – just coercion. Now they wanted us to sign a document that says we shall reconcile. Brilliant, isn’t it?
Then there’s Nos. 8 and 9. Taken together, they say we should support all “reforms” and 20-year, national strategic plans to come. I love making reforms. I love having strategies. But from the junta? And with support expected for plans we have yet no details? Thailand better take out an insurance policy against disasters resulting from possible poor strategic planning and reforms.
If you find the 10-point social contract rather coercive, some of the 15 points in the addendum penned by no less than junta leader Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha will make you laugh. Some are outright unbelievable to absurd.
Prayuth called upon Thais to respect differing political viewpoints. Right, you read that correctly! Coming from the very junta that has been sending hundreds to “attitude adjustment” sessions and detaining its opponents for the past three years, it is just zany! Just a day after the first such forum was held Monday in Bangkok, three scholars were summoned by a Chiang Mai deputy governor. Their alleged offense? Holding a banner at an International Thai Studies Conference that read: “Academic Forums are not Military Barracks.”
So much for respecting differing political views.
There’s another item in Prayuth’s addendum wish list stating that people should accept electoral results. This is coming from the man who overthrew the elected government just three years ago.
That’s not the end of Prayuth-ism, however. The junta leader also insists that state organizations must follow a merit-based system and ensure mechanisms exist to prevent unfair interference or staff transfers by those in power. Prayuth must have been kidding, for I have lost count of how many times he has used his absolute dictatorial power under Article 44 of the now defunct interim constitution to transfer senior government officials with no redress.
Prayuth’s men and women assure us however that they will listen to us attentively and may adjust the draft social contract before they expect representatives from political parties and civil society to sign.
Thai Post, a newspaper known for its pro-junta stance, at least until the past few months, wrote an analysis Tuesday that the signing and endorsement of the social contract and its appendix in the near future would be like a “finale” for the National Council for Peace and Order, or junta, before it paves the way for general elections.
Need I remind Prayuth and his people that they have been held Thailand hostage for the past three years and no PR exercise can bury their coercive behavior and illegitimacy?
Perhaps Prayuth wants things to appear civil despite the obvious military presence. That’s wishful thinking however for no amount of marketing, or Chinese and American support to prop up his junta can ever make it legitimate.
People may join Prayuth and others in signing such a document if they wish, but it’s only worth the paper it’s written on so long as those who disagree cannot take to the streets or express their disapproval without fear of arrest.