International Crisis Group doubtful on Thai junta's 'road map to democracy'

THAILAND - A report from the International Crisis Group has cast doubt on the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO)'s pledge to restore democracy.

"The NCPO's suspension of civil liberties, media censorship and measures to remove the power of elected officials appear to foreclose any possibility of achieving its stated aim of establishing democracy," stated the Brussels-based organisation in the report, "A Coup Ordained? Thailand's Prospects for Stability", released on Wednesday.

"Thailand's need is for a national dialogue to forge consensus on its future political direction; to settle on a shared notion of democracy; and to ensure that the majoritarian will can be respected in the form of a fully empowered executive and legislature, while protecting the interests of all."

The ICG also expressed uncertainty that power will be returned to the people by next year.

"In seizing power so soon after its last intervention in 2006, and following its involvement in violently quelling 2010 street protests, the military, under General Prayut Chan-o-cha, appears determined to learn from what it sees to have been its past errors," the group said.

"Thus, the ruling NCPO has moved forcefully to repress dissent and looks unlikely to relinquish power any time soon, with the talk of October 2015 elections now replaced with vague commitments.

Further, the interim charter gives absolute power to the NCPO... It provides no role for elected representatives or means for popular political participation."

The report warned the electorate might not accept a diminished status if a new charter were designed that way.

"Voters, increasingly accustomed to choosing their governments, are also ever more riven across geographical, to some extent class, and quasi-ideological lines," it said.

"These fundamental challenges concern the relationship between Bangkok and its peripheries persistent income inequality; and reality that the country's leaders - caught in a clash between those for whom the popular ballot is paramount and those for whom majoritarianism masks its own form of tyranny - find dogmatism easier to come by than statesmanship."