Academics Band In Defence Of Electoral Democracy

(11 December) Responding to the anti-government protesters? demand that an unelected ?People′s Council? be established, a group of academics has formed a counter assembly to defend Thai electoral democracy.

The academics said the purpose of the ′′Assembly for the Defense of Democracy" (AFDD) is to insist on the electoral politics as a legitimate path all sides must take in order to push the changes they wish to see, instead of calling for extra-constitutional intervention to achieve their objectives.
The AFDD is led by prominent academics such as Mr. Charnvit Kasetsiri, former rector of Thammasat University; Mr. Kasien Techapira, writer and lecturer at Thammasat′s Faculty of Political Science; Mr. Worachet Pakeerat, lecturer at Thammasat′s Faculty of Laws and leader of the ′Enlightened Jurists′, advocates for a more liberal political system.
More than 150 academics, lecturers, students, and civil servants have given their signatures in support of the AFDD′s formation, the group said.
Also present at the press conference yesterday was Mr. Prachak Kongkirati, another political science lecturer from Thammasat University, who announced the three stances adopted by the AFDD.
Firstly, Mr. Prachak said, the Assembly disagrees with the idea of the People′s Committee for Absolute Democracy With the King As Head of State (PCAD) which proposed the formation of the ′People′s Council′ to rule Thailand as an unelected transitional government and transform the nation into "absolute democracy".
Since no provision of the 2007 Constitution allows such body to be formed, ′People′s Council′ would amount to a de facto coup d′etat against the government, Mr. Prachak said. He also argued that the idea behind ′People′s Council′ neither adheres to the principle of equality nor reflects the diverse backgrounds of Thai citizens.
Furthermore, the academic announced, the AFDD objects to any attempt to derail Thailand′s upcoming election, including the PCAD′s campaign calling for His Majesty the King to replace Ms. Yingluck with an unelected Prime Minister as caretaker leader of the nation. 
Ms. Yingluck is required by the Constitution to remain as the temporary leader until the next election and that fact should be accepted by anti-government protesters, according to Mr. Prachak.
Lastly, he said, the Assembly affirms the 2007 Constitution as a legitimate rule all sides must respect, but acknowledges that the charter is flawed in some issues. Any effort to amend the Constitution, however, must be decided by the public and done in accordance with democratic procedure, Mr. Prachak insisted.
Mr. Worachet later stressed that the PCAD′s call for a royally appointed Prime Minister would invite a dangerous path for Thailand, since it would violate the principles of rule of laws and deeply anger the Redshirts supporters of Ms. Yingluck.
Another leading member of the newly-formed AFDD, Thammasat laws lecturer Piyabutr Saengkanokkul, also voiced his concern at the press conference that the PCAD′s claims that Eastern European nations once had  functional governments which resembled the ′People′s Council′ is misleading.
"These are examples of transitioning from Communist regimes to liberal democracies," Mr. Piyabutr said, "Whereas the PCAD wants us to transition from a democracy into God knows what". 
Mr. Piyabutr also warned that the PCAD is walking down the path of Italian fascists prior to the Second World War by mobilising a mass movement to overthrow the government and replace it with an unelected, authoritarian regime.
Meanwhile, Mr. Thanet Aphornsuvan, dean of Thammasat′s Faculty of Arts, expressed his disappointment to see a number of scholars and many members of the middle class collaborating with the campaign to "destroy Thai democracy".
"Instead of a middle class with intellect to help develop democracy, we have a middle class that is not happy with commoners′ democracy," Mr. Thanet said, "They want a type of democracy that is not possible anywhere on earth. They want a system ruled by magicians. It′s impossible."
When someone in the crowd later asked the AFDD leaders why they had not mentioned the massive corruption allegedly committed by Yingluck′s administration, Mr. Kasien took the microphone and replied that he sympathised with the protesters′ call to eradicate corruption.
However, Mr. Kasien said, the protesters should use democracy to fight corruption instead of destroying democracy, as it would eliminate any system of check and balance, and give rise to "some other form of corruption".
"Mr. Suthep wants to stop corruption … but I want to ask him, by what? By handing all the powers to Mr. Suthep′s hands?" Mr. Kasien fumed, "What tools will the Thai people use to scrutinise Mr. Suthep, if he has already centralised all the powers into his hands?"
The academics said they have also established a Facebook page for those interested in the Assembly′s activities. As of afternoon of 11 December, the ADD′s Facebook page has attracted more than 120,000 ′likes′.

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