Winston Churchill famously said in a speech to the House of Commons that:

“Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”

When it comes to Thailand, I’m not so sure. The Pheu Thai government, which holds a large majority, currently has three bills as top priority.

The first of these bills is the “Line Our Pockets at the Expense of the Little People” bill. Basically, the government is planning on borrowing 2 trillion Baht ($62 billion) to fund some vaguely specified infrastructure projects – though a large chunk of the money will undoubtedly disappear into the bank accounts of certain “influential people”. The Thai people will be left with paying off the debt plus interest for the next 50 years so that certain politicians and others can become even more fabulously wealthy.

The second of the bills is the “Get Thaksin Home at Any Cost” bill. Officially the bill (actually a number of competing bills drafted by different brownnosers) is about national reconciliation. Pardon anybody who broke any laws during the unrest of 2010, even if those people are guilty of murder or arson. This would give Thaksin a “get out of jail free” card and allow him to return to Thailand without spending even a day behind bars for his crimes. Understanding how doing something like this will promote national reconciliation is beyond my limited powers of reasoning.

The most insidious of the three bills, however, is about democratic reform. The Senate, which is 50% appointed and 50% elected, provides a check upon the actions of the lower house. Pheu Thai now wishes to make the upper chamber 100% elected and to remove certain current restrictions upon who may become a senator including:

  • Senate candidates must not have been party members or MPs for 5 years
  • Senate candidates are prohibited from being parents, spouse, or children of political office holders or MPs.

The inevitable consequence of this is that the Senate would be filled with the wives, brothers, sons, nephews, uncles, gardeners and maids of sitting MPs; there would be no checks or balances upon the actions of lower house. And where might that lead? President-for-Life Thaksin Shinawatra presiding over a financially ruined Thailand? Think Zimbabwe. Could Thailand be heading down such a path? It’s not inconceivable.

I think Winnie got it wrong about democracy.

 

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