Regime is here to stay
- 22 May 2019 at 04:00
- WRITER: EDITORIAL
Regime is here to stay. (Bangkok Post file photo)
In the aftermath of the March 24 general election, horse trading for cabinet seats among politicians has been ongoing as the two opposing camps make last-ditch efforts to form a coalition government.
From the outside, it looks like Thailand is making a transition to democratic, civilian rule, and bidding farewell to the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), the chief organ of the military regime that staged a coup five years ago today.
But us Thais should not kid ourselves. The regime is here to stay. This is the bitter pill the public is being forced to swallow.
Since Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha staged the coup in 2014 to "restore order" after months of anti-government street protests, he has pledged to enact political reforms and forge national reconciliation as a means to heal the deeply rooted political divide. He also rebuked the elected government he toppled as corrupt, and promised to tackle graft.
Five years on, the list of what the regime has done to serve its need to prolong its power after the election is much longer than the other list of what it has achieved in delivering those seemingly phoney promises.
With law enforcement adopting double standards under its rule, the NCPO has taken action against activists and politicians who stood against it. The political divide has widened, not narrowed.
The regime's so-called political reforms have ended up as self-serving legislation introduced to legitimise the presence of its key figures in the post-election era, both in the Senate and possibly a new government.
Under the regime-sponsored charter, Gen Prayut recently handpicked 250 senators, the majority of whom are his cronies who will serve a five-year term. They have been gifted unprecedented power by being allowed to join the Lower House in voting for the selection of at least two prime ministers.
The regime is selling this as essential to effect a smooth transition over the next five years. But it is just a path it has paved for its friends and families to hold power in the Senate and for its leader, Gen Prayut, to make an easy return as prime minister.
The Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP) was set up to accommodate this. As the regime's proxy, it has enjoyed certain advantages over its rivals. The Election Commission (EC), whose commissioners were appointed by the NCPO's lawmakers, has done little to probe allegations of lawbreaking against the party, yet it has taken drastic action against rivals of the PPRP.
But the regime's quest for power does not end here. After the poll, the PPRP has tried to form a government despite coming second in the election.
The EC, meanwhile, has made the election look like a sham. In addition to the many irregularities noted at polling stations and when the votes were counted, its much-criticised allocation of party-list MP seats to 11 small, pro-regime parties whose popular vote fell short of the electoral threshold has been seen as an effort to help the PPRP-led political camp gain a thin majority in the Lower House, and ultimately the "right" to form the next government.
Far from being better than the politicians they criticised, the NCPO has proved to be far worse.
For many Thais who initially backed the regime, they should have come to realise now that a military coup can never be a real solution to a flawed or corrupt government. The 2014 putsch derailed the country's social, economic and political development. The people who gained from it the most have been the coup-makers and their allies.