Friday, October 5, 2007

Deconstructing Thanong Khanthong: More of The Nation's Elitist Contempt for Upcountry Folk

New charter may lead to a delicate balancing act

Thanong Khanthong

The Nation

Thaksin was half right. He did not mention the 1997 Constitution, which he played a key role in destroying.

The Nation still hasn't written one, not one report on how Thaksin systematically destroyed the 1997 Constitution. Actually, technically, General Sonthi destroyed the constitution September 19, 2006. But The Nation refuses to acknowledge their patron's role in that.

The 1997 Constitution was drafted with people's participation. It was seen as a culmination of the trial and error of Thai democracy since 1932. The underlying idea of this constitution was to provide more stability to the executive branch so it could implement public policies before its term ended. The Constitution was embedded with a check and balance system, with the independent institutions acting as pillars to support the democratic process.

That's right. None of those mechanisms were used before the coup. The coup was the easy way out because the The Nation and its allies in the elite didn't want to do the hard work of actually proving Thaksin's guilt with evidence and didn't want to do the hard work of actually impeaching Thaksin or going through the judicial process. The 1997 constitution was clear regarding impeachment, recall, and criminal procedures concerning going after corrupt politicians.

Thaksin was the first and last elected leader under the 1997 Constitution, which gave him unchecked power as the independent institutions were subdued under his centralisation.

Of course Thanong refuses to spell out how Thaksin subdued the independent committees and checks and balances mechanisms of the 1997 Constitution.

He exploited every loophole in the constitution to strengthen his grip on power.

Neither Thanong or The Nation has not spelled out how Thaksin exploited every loophole.

And he and his party got elected, largely with support from rural voters in the North and the Northeast. He always claimed that he played by the rules in the 1997 Constitution, which he did not write.

Here comes the contempt for the khon ban nok.

At issue, which has not been adequately discussed, was a political divide between the Thais who eat khao suay (normal rice) and the Thais who eat khao niew (sticky rice). The khao suay eaters represent the urban voters; the khao niew eaters rural voters. Their interests are not the same. Thaksin chose the khao niew eaters to win him the election. He gave them populist policies and at the same time enriched a small circle of big businesses with ties to government and the stock market.

Is Thanong a journalist or a liar? Thaksin won the majority of voters in Bangkok and the Central regions also. The only region he got thrashed was in the South. Is the entire South made up of wealthy and middle class elitists who are part of Thanong's imaginary khao suay crowd? Is the North, Northeast and Central region made up entirely of ignorant hicks? I like khao suay and don't like khao niew, and I surely don't subscribe to his moronic analysis.

The Thai elite and the Thai middle class were shocked by the disparity between the content of the 1997 Constitution and its practical outcome.

They were shocked because for the first time in Thai history they weren't able to dictate the outcome.

The role of Parliament was downplayed. With 377 MPs, Thaksin did not have to show up at Parliament at all. During his six-year reign, he held parliament in contempt because the opposition could not lay a finger on him and the MPs under his control never broke ranks to vote with their consciences. He appeared in Parliament a dozen times at most. The opposition could not grill him because it could not muster enough votes to open a quorum.

Thanong obviously resents the fact that his side was the losing side and there was nothing he could do about it. Yes, I understand this frustration, but you don't have coups because you are a loser who can't win elections.

In other words, the Thai elite and the Thai middle class resented the fact that the lower house was completely taken over by ban nok (which has a negative connotation for rural folk) MPs.


In the Senate, the situation was similar. The elite and the middle class realised that by requiring senators to come from the election, the 1997 Constitution favoured rural voters, who voted in the wives, children, relatives and cronies of their MPs.

More bigotry.

Both the lower house and the Senate came under the control of ban nok representatives who were swayed by money politics.

More bigotry. Thanong is an idiot. Is there not corruption in Bangkok or the South?

And when Thaksin muzzled the media, the elite and the middle class felt they had no more room. The 2007 coup was partly a reflection of this urban/rural divide.

The media wasn't muzzled. The media, as usual, was cowardly. Again, The Nation still hasn't done one report on how Thaksin muzzled them or Manager or any other media group. Any journalist under the last constitution had the right to sue the government for violations of civil rights. How many journalists did that? Another idiotic argument that the so-called journalists at The Nation like to make is that the government would use advertising from state enterprises as a carrot and a stick to get its way with the media. Why in the hell would a media outlet compromise its integrity by taking money from the government in the first place? Why would any media outlet have government money as part of its business plan? If the Thai media had any balls it would not take a dime of government revenue so that its independence wouldn't compromised.

So when it was necessary to write a new constitution, the elite and middle class felt that voting at the ballot box did not equate to democracy in strict terms. They went on to draft the 2007 constitution to hand back power to bureaucrats, to provide balance against politicians elected by rural voters.

Did this work in the past? No.

Of course, the 2007 Constitution is a setback to democracy if you are a purist. But it is a product of another phase of Thai political development, which seeks to create equilibrium by balancing out the interests of urban and rural voters. It is not a perfect constitution. We might revert to the old days of short-lived coalition governments and a lack of stability. But bear in mind that the Japanese are changing their prime minister once every two years now, and they are still doing all right.

Basically, this idiot is saying that the constitution should be written so that the elite have a disproportionate amount of power in relation to the poor masses, because the elitists at The Nation know everything and if you don't subscribe exactly to their moronic political agenda, you are just a dumb upcountry hick who should be politically disenfranchised.

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