Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, former PM, chair of the Phuea Thai party and veteran of many events and excursions, has outlined his explanation for seeking assistance from HM the King and, unusually, a summary (with some details) has been printed in The Nation. The argument is that HM the King is not ‘above politics’ in the way that is usually argued in public discourse because:
“Under the principles of international law, a monarch represents the country’s sovereignty. In Thailand, the monarchy is the oldest and most powerful pillar of society, while the King exercises his discretion for royal initiatives and royal rulings in accordance with royal traditions.
– During the period of modernisation, Kings Rama IV, V, VI and VII safeguarded the country’s independence in the face of colonisation. The monarchy nearly succeeded in introducing democracy but was interrupted by the 1932 revolution, resulting in an incomplete transformation into genuine democracy.
– Under Article 3 of the Constitution, the King exercises sovereign power via the Parliament, Government and Judiciary. In theory and reality, the dispensation of power is within the realm of politics. Therefore the monarchy is not above and beyond politics as understood.”
There are several other points but it always seems a bit pointless to me just copy-pasting an article the reader can find elsewhere.
What is important, irrespective of the degree to which this is an accurate summary or whether one does or does not agree, is that this argument has appeared in the right wing press, which generally suppresses any such discussion. As I mentioned elsewhere, Chavalit and Somchai’s appeal to the Palace is unlikely to be answered and, if so, it will be interesting to observe how that will be reported in the international media.
The powerful do not give up their power easily – not without a fight certainly. That has been the guiding principle of the Thai elites who have held on to direct control over the three southern border provinces and have refused even to permit public discussion of any alternative. It has taken a person who is now playing the role of something of a maverick to challenge the (self-)censorship in public discourse and announce that a measure of autonomy would be better – after all, 3,860 people are now confirmed as dead in the insurgency violence since 2004.
General Chavalit Yongchaivudh, for it is he of whom I speak, has been championing the Pattani City (Nakhon Pattani) local authority which would unite the three provinces with a semi-autonomous form of administration, albeit one that remains subject to the Thai crown and constitution. The Bangkok Post is reporting this as being a compelling concept in the South but immediately rejected by the Democrat-led unelected coalition that is being used by the elite as a supposedly democratic figleaf for the continuing rule by the elite.
The cat is out of the bag, perhaps, and now it will be very difficult for the Bangkok elites to suppress discussion of the autonomy idea as before. For that, at least, General Chavalit has done us all a favour (although in the great karmic scheme of things I suspect he has some way to go before he can expect to be declared some kind of arhat or bodhisattva).
Certainly, something should be done to halt the violence – the current policy seems to be to give the army free reign and to suppress all unwanted news from the region (this from the government to which Stupid Suthep has awarded a score of 100 out of 100). Despite what the right-wing hacks say, it is important to bring management of the region under civilian, political control.