Thailand’s elite and the Constitution

There is a lot to be said about the elite in Thailand, some good and some bad. There is also talk that the new 2007 Constitution is written to keep them on top of the pile. With that said, Connecting the Dots decided to go and dig for dots in the elite’s neighborhood.

There has been plenty of comments by several people including some that have left comments here on other posts. So in fairness to all and to not be seen as just one sided, we have taken on the task of sifting through whatever this stuff is looking for dots.

The most common thing that floats around is the Constitution was written to keep the elite in power, and that the Constitution seems to favor them. At best this is a half truth. The 2007 Constitution was written to be a short leash as that is what is needed in Thailand. With all the antics and misbehaving in Thai politics, it becomes amusing to watch no matter how you cut it. The 2007 Constitution is very procedure driven that force a series of checks and balances that get in the way of bad boy self serving politicians. The simple logic is the more corrupt you are, the harder it is to operate.

In comparison the Thaksin government was off the charts when it came to being corrupt, and it is that most recent comparison that people have to go by. With that said the Constitution is more friendly to the elite, but not necessarily written for them. Should another group enter the game that was for lack of a better term, better fit to lead Thailand than the elite, the 2007 Constitution would favor them over the elite. In short it all comes down to who you are comparing.

The second and actually more disturbing is what can best be described as subliminal propaganda against the elite. To see this you need to step way back and look at the media content over the past few years starting in January of 2006 before the coup. When Thaksin was still the Prime Minister, there was significant control on the media. Only pro Thaksin content was allowed. There was not a lot being said about the democrats. In fact the percentage of air time was about 85% pro Thaksin, and 15% other.

After the coup and after the strict media controls were lifted by the Junta, a slow trickle of anti-elite propaganda started to find it’s way into the media. Just a bit here and a bit there, all generated by people that were pro Thaksin. After all a new government had not been elected yet and the elite were predicted the be the other team when things got going again. Next the new Constitution was voted on and Thaksin did his best to buy as many no votes as he could. However that attempt failed by a huge margin.

Once the elections got started the usual campaign things happened so that can’t really be called propaganda. However once the December 2007 election results were known, the anti-elite propaganda seemed to stop. It was not until the pro Thaksin group was losing the battle did the propaganda return. That started when the pro Thaksin group discovered the new Constitution has teeth, and an effort was on to forcefully change it and remove those teeth. The anti elite propaganda has continued and it looks to tie the Constitution to the elite.

In short we find that the elite are just players in the game as everyone else. The way the Constitution is worded now only seems to favor the elite because the other team is just so bad. The elite can play by the rules easier than the Thaksin team. After all you only have to look at the red shirt riots to see they have not a clue how to play by the rules, so they are taking the bully approach using anti-elite propaganda as a type of surrogate reason to rally.


3 Responses to Thailand’s elite and the Constitution

  1. Avatar tum|bler
    tum|bler says:

    Sorry. Have little time in my hands so here’s my short comment:

    – “…so they are taking the bully approach using anti-elite propaganda as a type of surrogate reason to rally.”

    I highly doubt that all the resentments against the so-called elites were just a surrogate reason for them to rally.

    – ” However once the December 2007 election results were known, the anti-elite propaganda seemed to stop. It was not until the pro Thaksin group was losing the battle did the propaganda return.”

    No. The anti-elite ‘propaganda’ (or whatever you want to call it) never stopped.

    – “The 2007 Constitution is very procedure driven that force a series of checks and balances that get in the way of bad boy self serving politicians.”

    Do we need to go as far as to reintroduce appointed Senators just to provide such checks and balances?

  2. To look at the 2007 constitution in perspective, I think one needs to take a step back. As I have said before in numerous posts, the 1997 constitution was hailed world-wide as a giant leap forward for Thailand. In part, because of this constitution, as well as their pro-active stance in devaluing the baht, Thailand was considered a leader in S.E. Asia.

    With that in perspective, let’s take a look forward. After the coup that took place in 2006, the junta appointed a select group to draft what became the 2007 constitution. Are you aware that he junta passed a law making it illegal to publicly criticize the draft? The junta also ran a successful promotion campaign leading up to the referendum. Hardly the makings of a democratic start.

    Not only that, but the people begrudgingly voted an affirmative on this constitution. Can you guess why? The unknown was even worse. If this constitution was voted down by majority vote, power would have been left with the military to pick one of Thailand previous 17 constitutions, revise it, and promulgate it within 30 days.

    Worldwide reaction was swift and decisive. Most, if not all countries, saw this as a big step backwards for Thailand. I could quote hundreds of articles, but just one from the NY Times states “Thailand would return to the weak, ineffective and short-lived coalition governments of the past, watched over by a potent military.”

    In addition, the Thai Rak Thai party was against the constitution from the beginning and continued all the way through. Richard, as you have also mentioned numerous times in your articles, you state the same thing. How many times over the past have you mentioned that the Thai Rak Thai party wanted to revert back to the 1997 constitution. I can’t remember how many times, but is that truly a party that slowed down it’s “anti-elite propaganda” while in office?

    I think what we have seen over the past 3 years is exactly what analysts have predicted. The new constitution favors the elite and if the elite doesn’t get things the way they want, the military is there to support their cause.

    As I also mentioned on your site 6 months ago, I see a civil war in Thailands future. You can take Thaksin out of the equation and I still see this happening because the divide between the country is so great. Abhisit is not a strong enough leader to pull the two sides together. Since he was essentially put in power by the people that don’t want to see change, he is almost helpless in bringing about true democratic changes, no matter how much he may want to.

    With one who certainly has a fondness for Thailand or I wouldn’t be reading this site, I hope this doesn’t happen. My hope is that some sort of leader can come forward and provide enough reconciliation to bring the country together. I also hold out hope that Abhisit can be this leader. He certainly has a window of opportunity now and this is the time to seize that opportunity. But rhetoric is not the answer. Rhetoric may pacify the people for a time being, but rhetoric without action will not provide the long-term solutions needed to be a united Thailand.

  3. With the above said Richard, I have to admit I liked this article much better from you. In the past, I have felt like you have been so one-sided in your opinions, you have reverted to outright false claims to support your arguments.

    In this case, while your opinion may differ from mine, I really like how you presented it.