All sides hope to pass burden to Thai monarch

BANGKOK - The words "sovereign power", "Article 3" and "Article 7 of the Constitution" are now topics of discussion with each political group trying to interpret the words in ways that would benefit them the most.

"Sovereign power" means the supreme power in the country. Article 3 of the charter says the sovereign power belongs to the Thai people. And Article 7 says that in a case where there is no applicable law in this Constitution, the decision should be made according to tradition under the constitutional monarchy.

The issue started when Suthep Thaugsuban, secretary-general of the anti-government People's Democratic Reform Committee, claimed that if the Constitutional Court ruled that the whole Cabinet must relinquish its caretaker position, there would be a political vacuum. Then he would announce sovereign power, claiming Articles 3 and 7 of the charter, and nominate a prime minister's name for royal endorsement.

The question is, how can Suthep claim the people's authority to hand him sovereign power when the legitimate ways to acquire sovereign power are only through a poll or from a military coup?

Suthep has neither of those channels. He refuses to accept the election and he holds none of the weapons or the force to stage a coup. Meanwhile, the "mass of people" supporting him is only a group of civilians. In the future, what would happen if another group of people stood up and claimed this power?

Although Suthep's preferred conditions are difficult, the government side cannot underestimate them and do everything to grab this "sovereign power" as well. It claims its legitimacy in being a caretaker government. On any day that the Constitutional Court rules it must go, it would insist the court was exceeding its power.

After that, it would put forward Article 7 of the Constitution saying such a vacuum was unprecedented and it would not be able to find a solution - except to ask for the royal judgement from His Majesty the King on whether the caretaker government could continue in its post.

This game, therefore, is nothing but pushing the burden to HM the King, while the monarchy is actually above politics and politically neutral.

The new proposal of asking Privy Council President General Prem Tinsulanonda to mediate and seek royal endorsement is no different, as it is also based on the hope the King would come out and solve the political problems.

While the pressure is mounting, and all sides are trying to push the burden on to the monarch, some people hope there will be a sign to stop such attempts, to prevent a long-term impact, and that might cause all sides to refrain.

This might be what Pheu Thai Party and the government want in the first place. They are not serious about using Article 7 as a way out, but as a way to stop their opponents from using it. In the end, if the opponents do insist on using it they will adopt it as their own tactic, too.

Though the move is an offensive, it also constitutes a defence for the government.