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Democracy in Thailand

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    Declaration by Associate Professor Giles Ji Ungpakorn 3 October 2006 According to news reports, a certain Mr Chaiyong Rattanawan has made a formal
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 10, 2006
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      Declaration by Associate Professor Giles Ji Ungpakorn 3 October
      2006

      According to news reports, a certain Mr Chaiyong Rattanawan has made
      a formal complaint about me to Police General Sompong Samranjai at
      the Dusit Police Station in Bangkok. I would like to explain below
      that if the Thai State accepts this complaint and decides to proceed
      with this prosecution, it will stimulate a number of legalistic and
      political arguments, both inside and outside the country.
      1. I, and all those who oppose the military coup of the 19th
      September believe that the 1997 Constitution is the legitimate
      constitution today. This constitution was drawn up after much
      discussion in all sections of Thai society. Participation in drawing
      up this constitution was unprecedented in Thai history. Article 65 of
      this constitution states that it is the right of all citizens to
      peacefully oppose those who take power by unconstitutional means.
      Article 66 further states that it is the duty of citizens to protect
      democracy. The 1997 Constitution came into force after it was sign by
      the Head of State.
      2. On the 19th September 2006 a group of military officers
      decided to stage a coup and tore up the 1997 Constitution. Those who
      understand democracy will see this as an illegal act according to
      Thailand's legitimate constitution. More than that, the military
      junta decided to draw up a so-called "temporary constitution". This
      turned out to be a short document of only a few pages. This so-
      called "constitution" was not drawn up through any participation by
      the citizens of Thailand. Worse still, it does not guarantee basic
      democratic rights. This temporary constitution also came into force
      after it was signed by the Head of State.
      3. The basic argument here is: which Constitution has legitimacy
      and is democratic? The 1997 Constitution? Or the Junta's temporary
      Constitution? Further more, which constitution conforms to basic
      moral principles of governance? We must not forget that the issue of
      morality and destruction of democratic rights were the basis for the
      anti-Thaksin movement.
      4. Given that both Constitutions were signed by the Head of
      State and that both Prime Minister Thaksin and Prime Minister Surayut
      received Royal endorsement, those who are holding guns to our heads
      in Thailand should consider what image they want to portray to Thai
      society and the international community. Do they want to show that
      the Head of State is neutral and above politics or do they want to
      imply that the Head of State is one and the same as the military
      junta? If the Thai state interprets the law to say that any criticism
      of the military junta is automatically a criticism of the Head of
      State, then people will naturally come to the latter conclusion.
      5. Any case against me will be a case against all those who
      support democracy. Democratic principles state that citizens must
      respect the wishes of the majority. It is not the duty of citizens,
      however, to follow orders from a small self-appointed group who take
      power by the gun without a democratic mandate. I subscribe to those
      democratic principles.
      6. There are those who would want to dirty the good name of our
      country by implying that Thailand "does not have a democratic
      tradition" like the West or like civilized countries. I beg to
      differ. The Thai Peoples Movement has a long and honourable tradition
      of fighting to expand the democratic space. This, in my mind, is the
      true Thai political culture.
      7. If the Thai State chooses to proceed with this court case,
      let it be absolutely clear that the arguments will not be confined to
      mere legalistic details in the court room. But let us think about
      legalistic issues for a moment. The choice facing us in Thai society
      is between the rule of just laws and the rule of the gun and the
      tank.
      8. Democracy can only truly exist if we respect the poor who
      make up the majority in Thai society. Democracy has no meaning
      without social and economic justice. If we are to kick out the
      corporate-backed, human rights-abusing Thaksin government, which at
      the same time paid attention to the plight of the poor, we have a
      duty to offer something better. It is time to propose a welfare
      state, funded through progressive taxation of the rich. Thailand has
      too many millionaires. Thai society would indeed be beautiful if this
      vision of democracy were to come about.

      Another World is Possible
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