First major test for Thailand's military government

First major test for Thailand's military government
National Legislative Assembly members attend a meeting to impeachment proceedings against ousted Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra at the Parliament in Bangkok January 16, 2015.

THAILAND - To impeach or not to impeach: that is the question. "This seems to be what members of the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) and the people all around Thailand are pondering ahead of the judgment day tomorrow.

The Wall Street Journal's James Hookway said this week that people were questioning the "wisdom" of impeaching former prime minister Yingluck, when she had been stripped of her post even before the coup in May.

Political analyst Pavin Chachavalpongpun, who never seems to grow out of the conspiracy mentality that ascribes all of Thailand's political woes to one origin - His Majesty, opined that Prime Minister Prayut initially wanted to "protect" Yingluck from the impeachment proceedings, but had to give in to "hardcore royalists" who want to prevent the Shinawatra clan from having "any kind of "political voice" during these "sensitive years".

He made no secret that he was talking about the succession.

Neither writer bothered to mention that the most blatant fraud in Thailand's history took place on Yingluck's watch, costing taxpayers between Bt500 billion (S$20 billion) and Bt800 billion and leaving poor farmers even poorer due to the depressed world price of rice.

That depressed market is the result of the whole world knowing that Thailand is sitting on a gargantuan stockpile of rice. And the rice subsidy that some supporters of Yingluck called "an investment for the future" is in fact no investment in any accepted sense of the word.

Pure and simple, it was a populist policy that offered no real and sustainable merit except for the temporary illusion among some farmers of a brighter future. And that false sense of wellbeing pushed many farmers deeper into debt.

Debate after debate in Parliament clearly outlined the trails of the large-scale fraud involved in the rice scheme, including the fake G-to-G rice purchase from China that was in fact from a private company owned by a Thai political crony.

The company in turn sold the rice back to buyers in Thailand. Even Yingluck's close advisers warned the scheme could be economically disastrous for the country. But none of the evidence and warnings prompted her to review, curb or scrap the scheme.

Neither writer bothered to mention that the Yingluck government's moral authority and political credibility had crumbled, and that millions had taken to the streets to protest.

To comprehend the importance of moral authority, one need look no further than a few days ago, when over six million people congregated in the streets of the Philippines to catch a glimpse of Pope Francis.

Did the pope conspire with Vatican left-wingers to get people onto the streets to make him look good, or to send a strong message to people back in Rome not to challenge his authority?

As for political credibility, it was evaporating faster than water in the desert. Why? Because there was simply no accountability. Politicians made campaign promises, never meant to keep their commitments, and never accepted culpability, voluntarily or under pressure. When it came to the political big bosses or insiders, the laws stopped at their door.

They held themselves beyond legal reach. A ministry permanent secretary who kept millions in illicit cash at his home before supposedly handing it on to the "intended final destination" did not suffer the appropriate consequences.

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