Democracy only way to escape crisis, academics say

Published ธันวาคม 16, 2015 by SoClaimon

ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย : ขอบคุณแหล่งข้อมูล : หนังสือพิมพ์ The Nation

THREE leading political scientists cited research results yesterday that show the country will escape political crises only through democratic means and not authoritarianism.

They were speaking at the seminar titled “Political Science and Thai political crises” held by National Research Council of Thailand and Thammasat University’s Faculty of Political Science.

Thammasat lecturer Prajak Kongkirati said although a decade of political struggle and crises has raised Thais’ political awareness to an unprecedented level, national division has weakened the people, so the country’s rulers had become stronger.

“We cannot overcome our political problems because we solve problems through power and not democracy. If we do not change our attitude, we will not be able to get out of the vicious circle,” he said.

Prajak dismissed as useless the efforts to write a charter suitable to the country. “It is just a paper that cannot answer how Thais can live together. Not every country can achieve sustainable democracy. But if we do nothing [to achieve democracy] our country will get stuck and not move forward,” he said.

Chulalongkorn University lecturer Naruemol Tabjumpol said Thailand’s democracy has been on a roller-coaster because public policies, social and economic disparities, a political structure with weak checks and balances.

“After the 2014 political crisis, the country’s democracy has taken a U-turn. We have become a centralised state. Civic movement cannot resort to democratic means. However, there is a way out if the rulers do not sideline the people but give them bargaining power,” she said.

Chulalongkorn lecturer Siripan Noksuan said the research showed that the country’s independent agencies lack checks, balances and responsibility, although they enjoy a high level of independence as designed by the charters. “These agencies are not held accountable for their work and in terms of ethics because there are no checks and balances. The complicated structure of the agencies is believed to be the cause of the political crisis last year,” she said.

“During the crisis, the Election Commission was given power to make decisions along with caretaker Cabinet over transfers of funds and the decision over whether the election should be postponed. The law allowed an agency which is not linked to the people to make such important decisions. This structure led to power overlapping. We are not sure history will repeat itself [having caretaker Cabinet]. The research found that we should redesign a better structure of independent agencies with checks and balances, and with accountable roles and responsibilities of the EC,” she said.

The survey found that provincial Election Commissions’ close ties with local politicians caused a lack of transparency. The EC could request for funds from Parliament and the agency was not required to return the leftover funds to the state at the end of the fiscal year.

She said former EC secretary-general Puchong Nutrawong had admitted some money was spent on overseas trips. Interviews with EC executives also revealed that the agency can raise salaries or award special allowances to increase staff efficiency each month and appoint officials freely as the agency can issue regulations without having to be approved by any agency.

“This raises the question if the EC is too independent and if state funds are used efficiently.”


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