While most of Thai society rejoices that the King has asked the courts to resolve the political crisis, a lot more needs to be done to clear the veritable “mess”.
Addressing some new judges, the King condemned the elections, saying, “It is impossible for a democratic election to have one party, one man. One candidate does not equate with democracy.” He also stressed that it would be unconstitutional for him to act unilaterally to govern the country, that Article 7 did not allow him such powers. He added strongly that the proper procedures must be followed and people should not “pass the buck and try to finish everything in haste”. “It's not right to dump it in the King's lap, which is worse,” he added. He concluded that if the judges did not keep to their oath to work for democracy, it should be they who resign and not the government.
This has caused a prompt meeting by Thailand’s top judges to discuss how to resolve the stalemate. Chat Chonlaworn, secretary-general to the Court of Justice, indicated the presidents of the Supreme Court, the Constitution Court and the Supreme Administrative Court would offer a solution and may suggest fresh elections. However, this would not take the form of a directive in the hope that “every party concerned will more or less implement our proposal in terms of legal interpretation”. Akkarathon Chularat, the Supreme Administrative Court's president, has also stressed that the King’s statements should not be read as asking the courts to nullify the elections.
However, Thailand’s academics have already interpreted it that way. Worajet Phakheerat of Thammasat University felt that the King has indicated the need for fair and fresh elections. Gothom Arya, director of Mahidol University's Peace and Culture Foundation, and Paiboon Wattanasiritham, of King Prajadhipok's Institute shared the same view. Financial analysts are of the same view too. A report from JP Morgan Thailand read, “We believe that, based on the King's speech, the most likely scenario is for the Court to annul the elections.” Interestingly, analysts also predict that should fresh polls be called after the Courts nullified the April 2 elections, TRT and Thaksin will be returned to power.
Meanwhile, the People's Network for Elections (P-Net) has called on the Election Commission (EC) to “cease all activities while the top three courts are working out a solution”, the Nation reported. Conversely, the EC insists on carrying out the by-elections as the April 2 election was fair and the EC did not pose problems to democracy. This seems to lend weight to the accusations that the EC is partial toward the Thai Rak Thai (TRT) government, as the TRT is adamant about opening the new Parliament if all the 500 seats are filled after the by-elections.
Meanwhile, the economic anxieties deepen. The Bank of Thailand has lowered its GDP forecast to 4.25-5.25 per cent, from the previous forecast of 4.75-5.75 per cent made in January, due to high oil prices, inflation, rising interest rates and political instability. Already, the Thai property market shows signs of slowing due to the same three factors. The government is taking note and effecting new measures to soften the impact of surging oil prices which could cripple the economy. Moreover, the Employment Department is predicting redundancies in the service sector, particularly in auto-related businesses.
Added to all the bad news comes the alarming report that the protracted crisis in the South may see new developments in the form of suicide bombers and female insurgents. Military intelligence has said that a group of women is training in Malaysia to replace the male insurgents whom the authorities have captured so far. General Sonthi called on security forces to exercise more restraint so as to avoid inciting hatred of the authorities. Nonetheless, unless the authorities are committed to justice in South, southerners are not going to be convinced of governmental goodwill. The trial of the perpetrators of Tak Bai killings in 2004 are finally underway but are stalled by the non-appearance of the accused policemen, and tardy preparation by the public prosecutors in the lack of filed papers and evidence. If the government wants to resolve the southern conflict, it must be prepared to treat the people fairly and punish the wrong-doers.
Top judges will meet to solve crisis (Bangkok Post, 27 April 2006)
Opposition to heed courts, contest next poll (Bangkok Post, 27 April 2006)
Academics call for fresh, fair elections (Bangkok Post, 27 April 2006)
EC says by-elections must proceed (Bangkok Post, 27 April 2006)
Women training as insurgents in Malaysia (Bangkok Post, 27 April 2006)
BOT cuts economic growth forecast for 2006 (The Nation, 27 April 2006)
TRT determined to open new Parliament (The Nation, 27 April 2006)
Crucial summit by court chiefs (The Nation, 27 April 2006)
Election likely to be nullified by top judges, analysts predict (The Nation, 27 April 2006)
Flurry of petitions to annul poll (The Nation, 27 April 2006)
EC urged to step down over poll 'failure' (The Nation, 27 April 2006)
Economic worries stall homebuyers (Bangkok Post, 26 April 2006)
HM asks courts to solve crisis (Bangkok Post, 26 April 2006)
Thailand: Democracy on trial in Narathiwat (Asian Human Rights Commission Press Release, 26 April 2006)