Friday, 7 September 2012

French Senators vist Thailand - "The army has the power because of the Constitution"

French news outlet, Le Petit Journal, has just run an interview with four French Senators drawn from across the French political spectrum who recently visited Thailand and had some very interesting things to say about the political situation in the country.

The ruling Socialist Party Senator, Gerard Miquel said that

[the Thai] Parliament does not have a considerable power. It is rather the army which has the power because of the Constitution, which was passed on the proposal of the military junta and does not give a lot of power in Parliament. 

Of course, anyone with an ounce of political acumen and a commitment to democratic norms wouldn't take long to figure that out.

But it's not just the leftwing Senator who reaches such this conclusion. Bernard Saugey, a Senator from the rightwing UMP party said 

"Thailand is a country which, in democratic terms, is a little bit off. Probably because of the Constitution."

The best comment, however, comes from the Center Party Senator, Hervé Maurey who said 

"At first glance, one might think that there are democratic similarities since it has a National Assembly who was elected in a way it seems democratic. But after the conversations we had, we realize that the Parliament and the Government itself has only a part of the power. We discover that there is also the army that has a significant portion of power, as well as the judges who are more in connection with the conservative forces and the military."
M. Maurey then goes on to say

One realizes that the situation is complicated because there is always a threat of a coup when political power wants to go too far. We feel that politicians have a very limited scope. It has been seen during the attempt to revise the Constitution.
What's odd is that it took these Senators just two days to come to these accurate conclusions - something the international media have failed utterly to provide despite many of them being resident in Bangkok for decades. Which begs the question - what's the point of the international media if they can't provide any kind of accurate analysis and just appear to be working hand-in-glove with the most conservative forces in the country?


Interview translated from "Le petit journal": [Huge thanks to my Facebook friend Alex Biosiam who did this partial translation and brought it to mine and other's attention].

Le petit journal: What is your view on the functioning of the parliamentary institutions in Thailand?

Gerard Miquel (Socialist party): This is a bit difficult in a day and a half to get an idea of the functioning of institutions, but it seems that Parliament does not have a considerable power. It is rather the army which has the power because of the Constitution, which was passed on the proposal of the military junta and does not give a lot of power in Parliament. Things can change, which is certainly hopeful.

Le petit journal: Did they give you positive signs on possible changes?

Bernard Saugey (UMP (Rightist party) senator and president of the Isère Managing Group for Thailand): I think the positive signs are slow to come and that Thailand is a country which, in democratic terms, is a little bit off. Probably because of the Constitution. Here, there is nothing to say. There is no transgression, everything seems legal. But we feel that the true democracy, the ballot box, is not much important here anyway. We believe that this may change if there is a political will, but will it be enough to face something that is very closed? It's not safe.

Gerard Miquel (Socialist Party): They can not contain the will of the people indefinitely so there will be changes. Members of the Red Shirts are very active. We met the President of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) Thida Thavornseth, a woman very committed in democracy will. We do not see how they can keep a situation like this. There will be inevitably an opening to get things moving. In Burma, the military in power had to evolute to follow the need of the people. Sure, it may not be moving as fast as we could wish, but there is hope.

Bernard Saugey (UMP (Rightist party) senator and president of the Isère Managing Group for Thailand): About Burma, for democracy and for the peace of the people of Burma, it is better that it is slowly changing.

Hervé Maurey (senator (Center Party) of Eure, also vice-chairman of the group): What is curious here in Thailand for us as French parliamentarians is that political life has nothing to do like ours. At first glance, one might think that there are democratic similarities since it has a National Assembly who was elected in a way it seems democratic. But after the conversations we had, we realize that the Parliament and the Government itself has only a part of the power. We discover that there is also the army that has a significant portion of power, as well as the judges who are more in connection with the conservative forces and the military. One realizes that the situation is complicated because there is always a threat of a coup when political power wants to go too far. We feel that politicians have a very limited scope. It has been seen during the attempt to revise the Constitution.

Bernard Saugey (UMP (Rightist party) senator and president of the Isère Managing Group for Thailand): And do not forget that half the Senate is appointed.

Gerard Miquel (Socialist Party): We felt a desire among the elected officials we met to move towards greater decentralization. I think if they undertake the process of decentralization and if it is well built, it is expected to bring changes in the country's institutions which will then install democracy faster. You can see the weight in France what local elected officials taken during last 30 years of decentralization, was able to bring the citizen closer to the power!

Bernard Saugey (UMP (Rightist party) senator and president of the Isère Managing Group for Thailand): We met the Governor of Bangkok who told us that the city organized the transport, but the buses are owned by the state. For us, this is surreal.

This was a translation of only a part of the interview. The link to read the full interview in French is there:

http://www.lepetitjournal.com/communaute-bangkok/actu-communaute/120526-interview-les-senateurs-francais-en-visite-officielle-en-thailande.html


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