Old players can doom Thailand's reform

Old players can doom Thailand's reform

Thailand's political reform means different things to different people.

To some, including a few influential foreign governments, the word "reform" is closely linked with how soon a general election can be held. To one half of Thailand, "reform" must deal with the chronic problem of corruption, which many consider the main cause of the country's political ills.

To the other half, "reform" must mean and deliver "justice" to those "unfairly accused" or those whose rights were snatched away through undemocratic means.

We can see the obvious conflicts among the three camps. The first sees an early election as essential while the second views the pre-coup democratic system as deep-rooted in corruption, and the people in this camp don't mind a long break from democracy if solutions to the problem can be effectively guaranteed.

The last group, like the first, wants an early poll, and it additionally will scrutinise "anti-corruption" measures inside and out for fear they could amplify the "injustice".

So there are the expectations and the realities. The expectations are clashing and the reality is there are people in all camps who will stop at nothing until their wishes are granted.

Impasse already looms and the country's misery is likely to continue way beyond the enactment of the new constitution, the next election and the setting up of a new government.

Unless, of course, the existing enemies, who have engaged in mutual destruction and kept Thailand at a standstill in the process, decide to call it a day. The imminent deadlock boils down to one word, "mistrust".

The key political players are afraid that their enemies will come to reap benefits or persecute them if the "reform" goes one way or the other. This is all the rivals are thinking about, which is said, because the "reform" is supposed to make the Thai lives in general better, not serve any particular group or vested interests.

For Thailand to see genuine peace, have healthy democratic competition and be able to enforce stringent anti-corruption measures without drawing suspicion or scepticism from any side, the enemies must leave the scene. It must be a clear-cut, unconditional departure and there must be no nominees. It's time to pass the torch to the new generation of politicians who can compete without anybody's shadow looming over their heads.

Only the enemies' unequivocal and unconditional departure can usher in a new political era where the prime minister won't be suspected of serving anything but the best interests of the people. Of course, many will ask "Where's the justice, then?"

A lot of leading figures on both sides of the divide will ask what makes them deserve to quit politics for real and for good. The truth is the general public wants "justice", too, and the term "justice" here means an end to being held hostage to bad consequences of no-holds-barred cut-throat politics.

That's what "reform" should deliver. This kind of reform is not up to the charter drafters alone. They need genuine help from the political enemies who must learn to sacrifice and be made to realise that regardless of whether they have been right or wrong their actions have led the country to this dismal state and there is no denying that.

Just as importantly, this kind of reform requires help from all Thais. Everyone needs to truly understand democracy and be willing to start anew when key rivals leave the arena. Thailand can get out of the vicious cycle, but for that to happen some people will need to make big sacrifices and others must learn to trust democracy again.

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