Academics savage Suthep for 'utopian' council plan

Academics have lambasted anti-government protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban's plan to invoke Section 7 of the constitution to pave the way for a royally appointed government.

They said the move would be an affront to democracy and could be a timebomb that would trigger a future civil war.

Speaking at a seminar at Kasetsart University yesterday, Thammasat University vice rector Nakharin Mektrairat said Mr Suthep's "people's council" idea was utopian and unworkable.

He also said the only option to defuse the escalating political conflict is for Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to dissolve the House.

After the dissolution, Ms Yingluck's government should become a caretaker government with a commitment to push for national reform, he said.

"The idea to form a people's council is utopian," he said, questioning how council members would be recruited.

Kowit Wongsurawat, an academic at the Royal Institute's Moral and Political Science Academy, stressed the need to stick to democratic procedures under the constitution.

He said Mr Suthep's proposal strays from the charter, and invoking sections 3 and 7, which Mr Suthep has cited to back his proposal, could be open to wide interpretation and end up creating many problems.

Mr Kowit agreed the House should be dissolved and the government should find someone else who is acceptable to all sides to act as interim prime minister.

Chulalongkorn University political scientist Prapas Pintoptaeng said lessons should be learned from Latin America.

He said several countries there had tried to implement "people's councils" which failed because the councils become a mechanism for certain social groups to seize power.

He agreed with middle-class people who came out to curb the abuse of majority power in politics but disagreed with the move to escalate their demand for democracy to be changed into an "aristocratic regime" since he said it would only lead to violence in the end.

On Tuesday, Mr Suthep for the first time spelt out what he meant by his proposal for a "people's council" to run the country.

He said he wants to invoke Section 7 of the constitution, which would lead to the installation of a royally appointed prime minister and cabinet.

Mr Suthep said people from all walks of life will then choose representatives from various professions to form the council, which would work out policies and draw up legislation including charter amendments.

Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva had proposed the invocation of Section 7 to end the political stalemate following the mass rally of the People's Alliance for Democracy to oust the Thaksin Shinawatra administration in 2006.

The idea was shot down however after His Majesty the King spoke about the issue on April 25 of that year.

His Majesty said Section 7 does not give the monarch authority to do anything he wants.

The section only refers to the democratic government with the King as Head of State, His Majesty said.

"If I do, they will say the King has acted beyond the scope of his duty. I never overstep my duty. If I overstep my duty, this is undemocratic," His Majesty said at the time.

Former charter drafter Seree Suwannapanon said yesterday it would be possible to invoke Section 7 to set up a people's council.

He said for this to happen, the prime minister must dissolve the House and then announce her resignation under Section 182 of the charter. This would confirm that cabinet ministers would vacate office en masse again under Section 180.

He said Prime Minister Yingluck should also announce that she will not remain in office as a caretaker prime minister, which would lead to a power vacuum as there would be no government.

This would pave the way for Section 7 of the charter to install an interim cabinet and set up a people's council.

But Worachet Pakeerut, a core leader of the Nitirat group and law lecturer at Thammasat University, disagreed with the proposal.

He said Section 181 of the charter stipulates that outgoing cabinet ministers shall remain in office until newly appointed ministers take office.

This means invocation of Section 7 was impracticable, he said.

Mr Worachet also said Section 7 has nothing to do with the installation of a prime minister by the King and was being misinterpreted.

Assessing the current political crisis, he said the government would eventually bow to the pressure and resign, but the country's problems will remain unsolved.The groups "who protect democracy" and have been defeated several times will regroup and come back in the next few years. A "civil war" could then break out, Mr Worachet predicted.

He said Mr Suthep's demands are uncompromising and not acceptable to the government. The best way out of the conflict is for Mr Suthep to compromise and take a step back.

Gothom Arya, from Mahidol University's Institute of Human Rights and Peace Studies, said the government's reaction to pressure from protesters must be within the parameters of the current constitution.

"Whatever is negotiated must be within this framework prescribed in sections 68 and 69 of the constitution," Mr Gothom said.

Section 68 of the charter stipulates that "no person shall exercise the rights and liberties prescribed in the constitution to overthrow the democratic regime of government with the King as Head of State."

Section 69 says that "a person shall have the right to resist peacefully any act committed for the acquisition of power to rule the country by a means which is not in accordance with the modes provided in this constitution".

Professor of politics and international studies at Australia's Murdoch University, Kevin Hewison, said Mr Suthep's demands could only succeed with another dose of military, judicial or palace support.

But if it succeeded and Mr Suthep seized power, he said the political reality will be considerably more authoritarian than his populist rhetoric suggests. "It will be a chilling despotism rather than new politics," said Mr Hewison.

Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul called on Mr Suthep to surrender if he wants to discuss his plans with the government.

He stressed, however, that Mr Suthep's plan for a royally bestowed prime minster is unconstitutional.

"Mr Suthep's proposal is a figment of his imagination.

"He is sick and should see a doctor. He may have been under too much pressure from legal cases and the arrest warrant against him, causing his thinking to become abnormal," Mr Surapong said.

Share your thoughts

Discussion 1 : 06/12/2013 at 07:53 PM
Being lambasted by acedemics for Suthep is to quote a UK Labour Politician Denis Healey akin to being savaged by a dead sheep. Spoken about a Tory politician, Geoffrey Howe in June 1978. A wonderful political insult.
Discussion 2 : 06/12/2013 at 07:43 AM
Mr. Surapong should not do this questioning, his mental capabilities may be questioned as well. Who in heavens name takes orders from a fugitive who resides outside the country, concerning the running of Thailand. I for one also question his integrity.
Discussion 3 : 06/12/2013 at 06:50 AM
People are given a choice of representatives chosen for them by the political parties where they live. Their only choices are this one, that one, a different one or spoil the ballot paper. In reality there is little choice.
Discussion 4 : 06/12/2013 at 06:40 AM
Perhaps Suthep will go to jail but at the very least he is still in Thailand. The Fugitive is too much a coward to return unless he is guaranteed immunity and amnesty for everything. Suthep for all his faults is where Thaksin never was or will be, in the front line.
Discussion 5 : 06/12/2013 at 04:58 AM
Well, do we still remember who said that, if he elected PM of Thailand, he would eradicate traffic jams in Bangkok, and poverty from Thailand within his first two years in office? That's Utopianism, and is Suthep saying anything like that? The answer is Nob.
Discussion 6 : 06/12/2013 at 02:50 AM
So what happened to the plans to stop corruptions and the control of 'obviously reckless' spending on some of the big projects/schemes? I believe these are the priorities and what Thailand really need. Isn't it easier to do this rather than trying to introduce the people council plan where most people probably would not agree.
Discussion 7 : 06/12/2013 at 01:34 AM
You "academics", you can adhere to the Constitution by the letters all you want. Please look at the reality, I considered this government illegitimate since the day they refuse to accept the verdict from the Court of the land. It's laughable that you suggest them to be the caretaker government during the transition period. That would be the very shortcut to the civil war that you talked about. We need good, reasonable leaders, academics to help find a good way out of this crisis - not to come and lecture us about the Constitution. The Charters were written by people, they could be changed by people - but only for the good of the country.
Discussion 8 : 06/12/2013 at 12:38 AM
Academia should not depend on the level of successful corruption to favor those who are manipulating law and order, especially in the policing forces that insure security for all and especially when the order of law is not equally distributed from the dominating force working to change the law to avoid being subject to the law to escape and create safe havens encouraging wrong doing, so how can the so called academics not understand this simple principle or at least ponder it when it is so obvious ?
Discussion 9 : 06/12/2013 at 12:00 AM
In principle I agree this government needs to go, but also agree a peoples council would be difficult to implement without any serious backing from the majority of people or armed forces. Thus Suthep lacks the leverage to make it happen. Best thing to do is force Yingluck to dissolve the house and for him to negotiate who will be the interim PM. For this to work it would need to be someone agreeable to both parties.
Discussion 10 : 05/12/2013 at 09:47 PM
"The academics lambasted the plan to invoke section 7 of the constitution" So they prefer the PT party make random changes to insure instability ? No very clever, besides, I can think of nothing safer for Thailand than to have a Royally appointed Government, Charlesh1 says it correctly in his comment !
Discussion 11 : 05/12/2013 at 06:39 PM
It's clear , Mr Surapong is questioning Suthep's sanity he's not calling him a stupid man, simply questioning his mental capabilities.
Discussion 12 : 05/12/2013 at 06:09 PM
Academic..........not of practical relevance; of only theoretical interest. "the debate has been largely academic" synonyms: theoretical, conceptual, notional, philosophical, hypothetical, speculative, conjectural, suppositional; I would like to see "Academics" in practise. Academics cannot run a country, overrated in my humble opinion.
Discussion 13 : 05/12/2013 at 05:48 PM
"They said the move would be an affront to democracy and could be a time bomb that would trigger a future civil war." The second part of this statement, would be, for Thailand, the worst result of all...
Discussion 14 : 05/12/2013 at 05:15 PM
"Mr Suthep said people from all walks of life will then choose representatives from various professions ..." There's already a procedure for this this: elections.
Discussion 15 : 05/12/2013 at 04:09 PM
So look at China which claims to be run by the people..... run behind closed doors!
Discussion 16 : 05/12/2013 at 04:08 PM
Yes, more working class MPs, problem is it takes a lot of money to run an election campaign, even an honest one. This is why candidates belong to parties, the parties help with the costs. Look at western governments, I can remember when we used to have "Independents" not any more.
Discussion 17 : 05/12/2013 at 04:04 PM
What you say is true, but equally an academic is presumably able to think rationally.
Discussion 18 : 05/12/2013 at 04:03 PM
Indeed I have never met a country before where the laws were so flexible, particularly when softened with a bit of money.
Discussion 19 : 05/12/2013 at 03:42 PM
Thank you Bangkok Post for that article with these wise and important words. Hopefully, it will help to calm down people's mind.
Discussion 20 : 05/12/2013 at 03:27 PM
Is it all that complicated? Democracy is not the issue. Corruption is the issue. So much lawbreaking and whitewashing going on. Those corrupt people who do not obey the law should face the proper punishment - according to the law. Protest is good, but it needs to be against corruption.
Discussion 21 : 05/12/2013 at 03:02 PM
A constitution based on common law requires every citizen to uphold it. Elections educate the people as to how wisely the cast their vote. Unless they participate and get a feel for protesting with their vote, the street protests should be limited to protesting corruption, abolishing bad laws and urging the justice system to investigate corruption.. You just cannot allow protesters to insist a government resign. the people put them there. They will dump them using the vote. Those who lost need to get out the vote not emphasise the frustration of their loss. It need patience and time.
Discussion 22 : 05/12/2013 at 02:51 PM
Thailand is a young country and it's people are very early in the process of discovering what it means to participate in nation building. Thailand like it's neighbours are evolving from it's ruling elite taking turns to a more distributed power base. Sometimes one faction nevertheless keeps winning and that's when the cry for by pass democracy rises. It requires patience, but the justice system, military and police system must shed their allegiance to these competing elites. If you are wealthy or a relative of a landed aristocrat and you break the law, you have to face justice. The losers have to get the vote out not protest for losing.
Discussion 23 : 05/12/2013 at 02:43 PM
We are a very funny and confused nation. One day a party commanding majority was accused of being undemocratic and abused its power. The next day a street mob proposed something which is not even in the current constitution.
Discussion 24 : 05/12/2013 at 02:41 PM
not if they are just bought & paid for election results
Discussion 25 : 05/12/2013 at 02:33 PM
"They said the move would be an affront to democracy" You don't suppose that a convicted criminal running the government remotely from afar is an "affront to democracy"?
Discussion 26 : 05/12/2013 at 02:27 PM
Thailand has a "Royal Institute's Moral and Political Science Academy"? What exactly do they research there? Please, tell us more about the experiments the scientists there perform, and what amazing discoveries they have made so far. What are currently the major research projects being run? Have they yet settled that vexed issue that so divided Kant and Bentham? Have they put Aristotle as firmly in his place on ethics as Galileo did on physics and astronomy?
Discussion 27 : 05/12/2013 at 01:34 PM
Sorry to be cynical, but unfortunately the people chosen to do the finger pointing on the one hand often have their other hand in the cookie jar too. There is an ingrained belief in society that any job endowed with authority is an opportunity itself to enrich, doesn't matter what form that authority takes.
Discussion 28 : 05/12/2013 at 01:31 PM
Of course those who cry loudest about this would be the one with their hands deepest in the cookie jar .
Discussion 29 : 05/12/2013 at 01:29 PM
Academics are already part of the problem. The current constitution is a nightmare of innuendo and nuances that have no definitive meaning and are therefore impossible to enact or enforce. Surely, some new thinking is required to rid the country of the current government and its meaningless "democracy" which is no democracy at all. The rhetoric that everything to enact reform must be legitimized by the current constitution is a pure quackery. Thailand needs to START OVER. Currently you have NO DEMOCRACY. Voting is not a democracy the manner in which Thai vote. Look to other country's constitutions for the needed checks and balances.
Discussion 30 : 05/12/2013 at 01:25 PM
Also not forgetting that those in powerful positions are unlikely to give up that power without a fight!
Discussion 31 : 05/12/2013 at 01:21 PM
Orangina, good point. The concentration is how to stop vote buying? Furthermore, the popularity does not stay on for life. The havocs have a lot of negative impacts on the family's popularity as revealed from the recent polls.
Discussion 32 : 05/12/2013 at 01:15 PM
I think you might be a bit confused. N.Korea is like the current administration, a family run dictatorship.
Discussion 33 : 05/12/2013 at 12:27 PM
The professors are correct in that a utopian form of government will not work. No attempt to form a utopian form of government has been successful because the desires, willingness, and abilities of all the people involved are so widely varying that the idealistic idea of a utopia fails almost immediately. Even when small groups of people have attempted a utopian community, it fails because of power struggles that start within the group.
Discussion 34 : 05/12/2013 at 12:08 PM
Okay, although I have no reason to accept "academics" thinking on anything I agree that some of Suthep's ideas won't work but it got everybody thinking about what MIGHT work. The first step was/is his and now, " Academics", come up with ideas not only workable, but acceptable to both sides of this issue.
Discussion 35 : 05/12/2013 at 12:04 PM
Had this rally been organized by PAD of 2008, they would have fought until the government house is occupied. Instead, Suthep a staged photo shoot and scurry back when told to do so. Goes to show he remains a politician to the very end. Ultimately though, I think Suthep knows what he's doing. In negotiations, you start by asking for something completely unreasonable and then work your way towards the middle ground. That way you maximize what you get out of the deal. Suthep may not get a royally appointed government or eliminate the Shinawatra , but PT will have to give up its monopoly control over Thailand.
Discussion 36 : 05/12/2013 at 12:03 PM
How else can he eradicate Thaksin's influence? The Shinawatras are the most popular politicians in the country. Either you do it by winning an election, or you have to somehow deny the people's votes. This is about as serious a plan as you can get if you want to do that. There is no way to do it democratically. You're just going to have to accept that if you can't beat him with an election, you can't have a democracy without Thaksin. I recommend beating him with an election, like civilized people do.
Discussion 37 : 05/12/2013 at 11:59 AM
A People's Council, what a great notion. But why look at south America for comparisons, when we already have an excellent Asian example of how a Peoples Council works,by looking at the North Korean experience.
Discussion 38 : 05/12/2013 at 11:48 AM
They seem to be focusing on that one family, and their great wealth, etc. They should be focusing on the significant wealth (25% of GDP) a small number of families have and the amount of power those families have). Focusing on the oligarchies would be a start.
Discussion 39 : 05/12/2013 at 11:45 AM
what ever some might think of suthep,he has awoken the silent majority,and is quite right,the nation doesnt want the taxsin law or his charter,the system suthep wants,wouldnt work,but what he is trying to say,is more ordinary people should be elected as mps,not just the elite and rich, to get richer, the system in place is workable ,but new boundaires lines needed to be fairer,to the voting system,and of course only clean,and up standing character may apply.
Discussion 40 : 05/12/2013 at 11:26 AM
Pheu Thai are always going on about wanting to change the Constitution. Why shouldn't Suthep do the same, however misguided?
Discussion 41 : 05/12/2013 at 11:17 AM
I've never been in a country which rates academics as 'oracles' like Thailand. They live an insulated life where they do not have to live with consequences of their work : they just move to something else. They are generally chasing funding so they have to use bold statements. The world is mixed with as much practicality as theory : there truly is no substitute for experience. I suppose experience in anything apart form corruption is thin on the ground here.
Discussion 42 : 05/12/2013 at 11:00 AM
Like many things the charter seems to interpreted how people want to see it. Anybody who has dealing in Thai government offices, whether immigration, driving centers etc, it always depends on which officer you get to how easy or hard it becomes because of their interpretation.
Discussion 43 : 05/12/2013 at 10:52 AM
A hopeful move would be to let the democratic ideal continue to try and gain a foothold but this means having to accept PTP, YS and TS and all they stand for - for now. This would be in the hope that the rumblings of disenchantment by the reds continues to grow so that in a few years time more of them would realise they've been duped and elections would be more balanced. The problem with that 'utopia' is the ones in power will in the meantime use their stranglehold on state finances to try keeping the same masses content for another period with ridiculous handouts. Not to mention their '1 for them, 2 for me' accounting. Rock & hard place.
Discussion 44 : 05/12/2013 at 10:32 AM
The only practical answer is a house dissolution on the grounds that the amnesty vote showed that PT and its coalitions supporters no longer reflect the will of the people and went what beyond anything envisaged when PT won the elections. It was a clear abuse of the trust and mandate from the electorate. Who PT field in the election as PM is up to them - judge them by their actions. If they win a mandate fair enough. If they abuse it (as they did this time) or fail to govern in the interests of the people go back to the streets with legitimate and lawful protest. Such protest is allowed and part of building a real Democracy
Discussion 45 : 05/12/2013 at 10:15 AM
Former charter drafter Seree Suwannapanon hits the target. Dissolution and resignation with vacuum for section 7 to fill in the vacant premiership. To accomplish that Suthep has to force Yingluck not to take a caretaker role. No, Suthep has not lost his mind, it is that insult and underestimation of others that have caused Yingluck the current heartache. Anyhow, anti-corruption agency is likely to accomplish Suthep's last aim without this talk of section 7.
Discussion 46 : 05/12/2013 at 10:06 AM
I never thought Suthep was serious about his announced plan. It is a red herring to cause us to concentrate on how to eradicate that family's immense power. That power is supported by money and large networkings. You need an outside-the-box solution which he does not have but hope others could develop for him.
Discussion 47 : 05/12/2013 at 09:29 AM
Elections may not be the sole determining factor in the legitimacy of a government , but I would respectfully suggest that in a democracy they are a rather important one .
Discussion 48 : 05/12/2013 at 09:25 AM
May be one day The Fugitive and Sutep can share a cell .
Discussion 49 : 05/12/2013 at 09:12 AM
Elections are not the sole factor that determine whether a government is legitimate or not. Such thinking is childish. Just as equally important is rule of law, a balance of power, a commitment to the country's welfare, and the addressing of the population's needs - not just your supporters. We can all agree Peua Thai has none of these save for elections. To continue to shriek "democratically elected" is to concede in no other way is this government legitimate - thus it must go.
Discussion 50 : 05/12/2013 at 09:09 AM
I completely support the protests, but I think Suthep's alternative is a shot in the foot. Come up with something more realistic and appealing to a wider base. Try a temporary caretaker government whose goal is to undo the mess Shinawatra has done, and to keep the wheels on the cart long enough to uproot every aspect of his regime so that we can have truly fair and free elections.
Discussion 51 : 05/12/2013 at 08:59 AM
The King clearly understands his political role in a constitutional monarchy, why cannot Suthep understand this and accept the proper mechanisms.
Discussion 52 : 05/12/2013 at 08:45 AM
I wonder if Suthep even believes what he says any more. He is a fascinating speaker to watch, but I have the feeling that he got this movement going and now doesn't know how to stop it without losing face. A "people's council" simply is not going to happen.
Discussion 53 : 05/12/2013 at 07:06 AM
Just suggest that the minority for once in their lives accept the majorities vote and start acting democartic. How many times now have these same people overthrown an elected government because of their greed to obtain power and channel the people's money back to their special interest. It's all about controlling the peoples's money and the 2 triilon sounds to good to let get away. Take away the peoples government and forget democracy.
Discussion 54 : 05/12/2013 at 07:01 AM
Best thing for Thailand is to create laws for corruption that will give serious jail time and to stop with all of these amnesties that everyone from different colours keep on proposing when they are in power,you commit a crime you do the time,i remember when i was a young lad back in Portugal when they had corruption across all of society,when they got serious about the punishment things changed quickly,state employes, police and anyone in government caught with their hand in the cookie jar are dismissed from their job and charged with the full extent of the law no ifs or butts about it.
Discussion 55 : 05/12/2013 at 06:54 AM
Good changes usually have clear, practical and achievable goals, led by leaders of good and moral characters. We don't have any of these. Constitutionally acceptable solutions are now the most logical steps forward.
Discussion 56 : 05/12/2013 at 06:45 AM
At last we're hearing some good sense spoken by people who appear to have integrity, the right intentions and wisdom, to a degree inverse in proportion to the reactionary opportunist Suthep and his bandwagon chums.
Discussion 57 : 05/12/2013 at 06:16 AM
Once again Suthep has to "fight" alone this time.
Discussion 58 : 05/12/2013 at 05:10 AM
Do Suthep and other Democrats leaders realise that their demand to invoke Section 7 is impractical? No doubt that they do. Seem to me this is only their tactical strategy in dealing with their opponent and to satisfy their supporters. As can be heard, their ultimate objective is to get rid of Thaksin clone.
Discussion 59 : 05/12/2013 at 04:54 AM
"people from all walks of life will then choose representatives " unless they live north of Bang Pa-in , in which case they can do as they are told by those who know better . This man calls himself a "democrat" when in fact he is worse than The Fugitive .
Discussion 60 : 05/12/2013 at 03:35 AM
"They said the move would be an affront to democracy and could be a timebomb that would trigger a future civil war." The same can be said of Thaksin politics.

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