Thai leadership still beats that of our neighbours

Thai leadership still beats that of our neighbours
Prime Minister Prayut should have realised from the beginning that reforms would require a long process and inclusive participation.
PHOTO: Reuters

The verdict in the Anwar Ibrahim case in Malaysia prompts me to reflect on the different leadership countries enjoy and how it serves them. There has been much carping recently about Thailand's supposed undemocratic state. But let us look at how it fares against its partners in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

Notwithstanding Singapore, Malaysia thinks of itself as the most advanced country in the region, but Mahathir Mohamad's wish for it to become a First World country this decade looks increasingly like a bad joke. Having been left with the same positive colonial legacy as Singapore, it should have been able to progress with the same sense of purpose. But, for a variety of reasons, Malaysia has remained a very poor cousin of the city-state's economic powerhouse. With the exception of the highly proficient Dr Mahathir, Malaysia has had the misfortune to be saddled with lacklustre, talentless leaders recently. His UMNO party's iron grip on power has not served the country well, and the current prime minister, Najib Razak, has done his country no favours in his handling of the Anwar Ibrahim case.

If there were any clear indication needed, besides the fumbling economic performance, that Malaysia is not likely to gain First World status anytime soon, then this is it. This is not how sophisticated countries behave.

Moreover, it is interesting to note that the Malaysian constitution stipulates that the chief justice of the federal court be appointed on the advice of the prime minister. The present chief justice was appointed in 2011 by Najib. All other senior judges are appointed in a similar manner.

It is this chief justice that presided over the Anwar case and who chose to rise and abruptly leave the court without hearing Anwar's closing statement in full.

Looking now to Indonesia, great things were expected from the popular new president. However the controversial choice of corruption suspect Budi Gunawan as chief of police, along with the recommencing of executions, have already destroyed Joko Widodo's reputation.

Meanwhile ill treatment of workers and voracious land-grabbing in Cambodia make dubious property purchases in Thailand look very small beer indeed.

So I have to say I find the rather benign hand of the current "form of government" in Thailand rather acceptable - as do, clearly, a majority of Thais. I cannot see the current leader indulging in the kind of reprehensible behaviour of Thailand's supposedly civilised neighbours detailed above.

John Patterson

 

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