A day for Democracy

Tomorrow has been set as the D-day that Thais will walk out on the streets of Bangkok and protest against corruption and misuse of power by the current government. Still many are asking, why are you protesting when the government has already abandoned the controversial amnesty bill? Isn’t it enough? Protesting a democratically elected government is like protesting against democracy. Are you in favor of a fascist state?

Let’s make a few things clear.  I am not protesting against democracy or in favor of a fascist state, but I am protesting against a government who has misused the power entrusted to them and to this day, has not admitted any wrong doing.   Why have they been able to corrupt and misuse power to such an extent? This is because the current model of democracy in Thailand has flaws in its check and balance system.  And as you know, a check and balance system is important if you are to prevent a majority government or party from misusing their power.

This misuse of power by the majority is a concept feared since the time of Plato and as Tocqueville called “Tyranny of the Majority.”  The misuse of power happens when the majority controls the legislative power, the executive power and the judicial power.  In plain English, when the majority controls how laws are made, executed and interpreted.

In designing the US constitution this was considered and James Madison realised that, “Ambition must be made to counteract ambition. The interest of the man must be connected with the constitutional rights of the place. It may be a reflection on human nature, that such devices should be necessary to control the abuses of government.”  The US democratic system reduces the incentive for the government to succumb to human nature and pursue personal interests with its separation of powers and its system of checks and balances.

In Thailand, the legislative branch of the government is majority controlled by the government.  The judicial branch shares its powers with the constitutional court which at times has had controversial verdicts.  Think of  Clarence Thomas in the US.  I need not mention the executive branch.

The media, which is supposed to objectively report news has also been influenced.  Since the protests started earlier in November, the “Free TV” which is broadcasted throughout the country, has barely covered the protests.   They have selectively omitted the news.  This, I presume, comes from the government’s ability to influence and make life hard for any journalist or station not in their favour.

This lack of an objective and reliable source of information has led the population to turn to social media for news and information.  It’s hard to distinguish between real news and rumour.

The government is wonderfully smart at getting things done, keeping the opposition quiet, and appealing to those who want a “democratically elected” government.  They have put their own people in important positions and if a policy needs to be pushed, a politician becomes head of a committee. Interfering with governmental agencies.  This I have witnessed. They are masters of marketing.  Every interview with foreign media boasts of how the government was “democratically elected.”  Pro government supporters have signs in english and foreign media are given VIP treatment.

If this democracy is to work in Thailand, it has to be tweaked and polished. We need a strong legislative and judicial system, one that would not be subject to external influence and a strong media that will report and help be an “eye” to any misuse of power.

For now, action has to be taken before the cancer spreads any further.  That’s why we are protesting and that’s why tomorrow you will see millions on the streets of Bangkok.

Short term pain for long term gain. What happens next, we’ll just have to wait and see.

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