You Can’t Get There From Here: A Road Map for Thai Democracy (Part One)

“Roadmaps” are popular in Thai political circles.


Lately it seems that whenever anyone out of power in Thailand is demanding something that someone in power doesn’t want to give, someone in power comes up with a “roadmap”. Said roadmap is usually a vague list of more or less concrete steps to be undertaken before “democracy is restored” or “reconciliation is achieved”, whichever is perceived to be the demand or need of the moment. Over the past five or six years, it is usually both: first reconciliation, then democracy.

One reason these roadmaps never seem to guide the nation to its destination has to do with the rather pointed lack of a shared definition of ‘reconciliation’, to a minor extent, and, far more significantly,  of ‘democracy’ itself. Conveniently for all concerned, neither term has a fixed meaning. And equally conveniently for all concerned, both terms fairly glow with positive connotations. Who, after all, could be so churlish as to deny the value of either one?

Pared down to basics, the royalist-military-conservative wing defines ‘reconciliation’ as “STFU and do as your betters tell you”, a formulation hardly likely to endear itself to the vast majority of the Thai people thus being told to know their places.

Similarly, ‘reconciliation’, to the various levels of Thaksinite political expression boils down to “Bring Thaksin home and let us get back to running Thailand Inc.”. In many ways it is the same definition directed at a different group. Everyone just wants everyone else to shut up and take it lying down. *

It makes for difficult politics.

As for the competing definitions of ‘democracy’, well, even on a roadmap it’s better to stay away from that one. But in the interest of “reconciliation” some delineation may be beneficial.

To those who define themselves primarily by opposition to the coup and all forms of military dictatorship in Thailand, ‘democracy’ conveniently means “elections”.

Once elected, Aleister Crowley’s injunction “Do What Thou Wilt Shall Be The Whole of the Law” becomes the predominant mode, unless of course the Royal Thai Army, the Constitutional Court, or any one of a number of independent bodies originally mooted by the oft-cited People’s Constitution of 1997 says you can’t.

Then it’s time to STFU and do as you are told or call another election and get democracy back on track.

Unless the Election Commissioners won’t let you. At which juncture it’s time for yet another coup to put an end to the undemocratic chaos, take a time-out, and rebuild “democracy”, as defined by those who support military coups as a means of restoring Thailand to the true path of ‘democracy’.

This group tends to define ‘democracy’ as rule by a group of people who are not greedy, and who are most definitely not dishonest politicians, and who are content to stay behind the curtain operating the levers that the PM and her cabinet and the houses of parliament push here and there in a kind of dumbshow until the real leaders accept a setting that most accurately expresses the will of the Thai people, as divined by these “good people”.

Generally speaking, the “good people” who provide the real leadership behind the scenes in this definition of ‘democracy’ are the same people who step out in front of the curtain and run things under military rule.


So, given that one way or another, the same people are in fact sovereign in Thailand regardless of what any given “constitution” might say, or what party any given election might return to nominal control of the government, what seems to be the problem?

To Be Cont’d…


*It should be noted that the one area of conscious and loudly-trumpeted agreement is that those who have offended against the lèse majesté laws, the notorious Section 112, are not important to reconciliation. Everyone agrees that these monsters should rot in prison or in exile until a higher form of amnesty is decreed from on high. More liberal observers of the Thai political scene tend to view any suggestion of ‘democracy’ that doesn’t include protected speech as somewhat lacking, but neither side in the present conflict cares much about that, as can be seen from their shared emphasis on “STFU” as a necessary component of ‘reconciliation’.



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