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Pattaya Daily News

05 September 2008 :: 07:09:45 am 42757

The Economist: Worse Than A Coup

An authoritarian rabble should not be allowed to turf out a deeply flawed but popularly elected government
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STANDING up for democracy sometimes entails standing up for some unappealing democrats. Thailand?s pugnacious prime minister, Samak Sundaravej, is an especially hard man to defend. A ferocious rightist, Mr Samak was accused of inciting the policemen and vigilantes who slaughtered dozens of unarmed student protesters in Bangkok in 1976.

On becoming prime minister following the election last December that restored democratic rule after a 2006 coup, Mr Samak chose for his cabinet some of the most unsavoury figures linked to the government of Thaksin Shinawatra, the prime minister deposed in the coup. But with the army on the streets of Bangkok again, Mr Samak is for once, if not in the right, then at least less wrong than those calling for his head.

His government is deeply flawed. But it would be wrong and dangerous if the authoritarian rabble who have seized Government House in Bangkok forced it out of office. After violent clashes between supporters and opponents of the government, Mr Samak this week declared a state of emergency in Bangkok (see article).

The army chief backed his decision, but by mid-week was still ruling out the use of force to clear the squatters out. If the protesters, the woefully misnamed People?s Alliance for Democracy (PAD), do succeed, democracy in Thailand?not so long ago a beacon, by Asian standards, of pluralistic politics?will be in grave danger.

Some in the crowds at PAD rallies are liberals, appalled both at the abuses of power in Mr Thaksin?s government and the sad signs that Mr Samak’s is no better.

The PAD’s leaders, however, are neither liberals nor democrats. A gruesome bunch of reactionary businessmen, generals and aristocrats, they demand not fresh elections, which they would lose, but new politics in fact a return to old-fashioned authoritarian rule, with a mostly appointed parliament and powers for the army to step in when it chooses. They argue that the rural masses who favour Mr Thaksin and Mr Samak are too ill-educated to use their votes sensibly. This overlooks an inconvenient electoral truth: the two prime ministers had genuinely popular policies, such as cheap health care and credit.

The palace and a Burmese road to ruin…
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THAI CABINET AGREES TO HOLD REFERENDUM TO EASE CRISISBANGKOK, Sept 4 – The Thai government’s special cabinet meeting Thursday agreed in principle to hold a referendum to seek public opinion on a solution to end political crisis.

The meeting was convened by Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej at the Royal Thai Armed Forces headquarters, after he had explained his stance on the latest situation through a state-run radio station in the morning.

Government Spokesman Wichienchote Sukchoterat elaborated that the Cabinet has approved in principle the referendum plan after the House of Representatives had approved the referendum bill which would be forwarded to the Senate on Monday.

If the Senate approves the proposed referendum, the process could begin within 30 days or early October. The Council of State will be assigned to draft a questionnaire for the referendum, according to Mr. Wichienchote.

Earlier, Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister Somsak Prisananantakul said the Chart Thai Party, a coalition partner of which he is deputy leader, had proposed a referendum to seek the public mind as to whether the government should stay on to perform its duty, or not.

Mr. Somsak said the party had made the proposal because it believed that the referendum process was democratic and could address the present crisis.

“It is alright if the People’s Alliance for Democracy disagrees with the proposal, but we must heed the majority of the public.

“I believe it is worth spending (an allocation from the national) budget for the referendum when compared with losses of revenue and prestige which the country has got now,” he said.

However, Sathit Wongnongtoey, the opposition Democrat party chief whip, disagreed with the move to hold a referendum.

Mr. Sathit argued that the bill enabling the referendum had yet to be enacted, and suggested that the best way to defuse the current political crisis was to dissolve the House and hold a general election.

Some ruling People Power Party MPs, however, welcomed the proposed referendum plan to seek public opinion.

Mr. Wichienchote dismissed criticism that the proposed referendum is a government political ploy to buy time, saying the current situation warranted the action as the anti-government rally has continued for over 100 days.

The spokesman reassured the public that the government could control the situation after the state of emergency has been enforced in the capital since Tuesday.

Meanwhile, People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) leader Somsak Kosaisuk said the referendum would be unconstitutional and could not be used to solve the political crisis. He affirmed the PAD would continue its rallies. (TNA)

Reporter : PDN staff   Photo : Internet   Category : Thailand News

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