Doubts hang over Thai reforms being put into action

Doubts hang over Thai reforms being put into action

THAILAND - More than 10 new organisations will be set up to carry out reform under the new constitution, but there are doubts over whether they will be able to achieve their goals within the given time of five years.

The Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC) has introduced these organisations in the chapter on National Reform and Promoting Reconciliation.

The new charter stipulates that this chapter, along with the organisations it empowers, will become defunct after five years.

However, it also stipulates that if a minimum of 50,000 eligible voters sign a petition, Parliament or the Cabinet can request a public referendum on whether the chapter should be extended.

If most people want that, the chapter would be extended for no more than five years.

CDC member Thawilwadee Bureekul, who is also a National Reform Council (NRC) member, said that national reform could be promoted once every side cooperates.

Thawilwadee, chairwoman of the NRC committee on gathering public opinion and public participation, added this included the people as well, because the people were the key towards national reform.

"National reform is everyone's responsibility," Thawilwadee said.

She explained that the member makeup of these reform bodies was still uncertain, but each body would have its own area to push for reform.

She said if national reform could not be accomplished in five years the process should be extended.

Process had 'wrong perspective'

However, independent political scientist Sirote Klampaiboon warned that the reform process would fail because it started with the wrong perspective towards the problem.

He said the government, the NRC, the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) and the CDC claimed that there must be economic reform in order to reduce inequality, reasoning that it was the cause of past conflicts.

But he said the origins of disputes stemmed from the inability of the authorities and other people to accept different ideas.

"Perhaps national reform cannot eradicate social disputes, because the disputes have no relation to the national reform these reform bodies will do in the future," he said.

Sirote also voiced concern over the composition of these bodies - that they will consist of members who think similarly.

He obviously believes national reform will not be achieved in five years.

He said the bodies would be more effective if there were contrasting ideas within their ranks.

"If the members from the NRC and NLA will be included in the reform bodies, I think that they will only be a decoration of these new reform organisations," the political scientist said.

'Reformers have no authority'

Reformers and other junta bodies are supposed to only propose the plans and construct the framework for elected governments to follow, said Sirote.

"These people have no authority or jurisdiction in implementing their plans. Implementing national reform plans should be done by the people who are selected by the public," he said.

"How can we be certain that the NRC has proposed its plans in accordance with the people's ideas."

Sirote's issue with the pending reconciliation bodies also relates to reconciliation committee chairman Anek Laothamatas stating that conflicting groups such as the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship and the People's Democratic Reform Committee be represented on the pending reform bodies.

But Sirote said this was a flawed approach because the "main conflicts do not cover only these people, who I believe are just characters on a |bigger stage".

Another NRC member, Sombat Thamrongthanyawong, chairman of the committee on political reform, said the success of the reformed process hinged on the next government.

"If the new government comes into power and they are not interested in implementing these new reform bodies' plans, national reform will never be promoted," he said.

Sombat supports the idea of setting up the new reform organisations but said its members would only make proposals to the government, which would implement the ones it liked.

However, he warned the new government could have many reasons not to continue the reform plans.

He said the next government could halt reform plans by arguing that those plans hindered its policies.

When asked if he thought reform could be achieved in five years, Sombat said he has hoped for national reform since 1973.

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