Military must accept the obvious

This is where the military says unity begins, as 10 politicians (including Bangkok Shutdown leader Suthep Thaugsuban, circled) are asked 10 questions by generals of 10 reconciliation sub-committees. (Bangkok Post photo)

The Central Administrative Court on Friday ruled the military junta’s moves to take away the three passports held by the former Education Minister, Chaturon Chaisaeng, was a “serious violation” of the fundamental rights of the key leader of the previous government.

The ruling by the court returns to Mr Chaturon, a fierce critic of the current government, his two normal and one diplomatic passports, but to travel abroad he would still need the permission of the National Council for Peace and Order, the body the military established after the coup on May 22, 2014.

The decision to seize the passports of Mr Chaturon was made soon after the coup by the Foreign Affairs Ministry and the court’s ruling clearly stated it was unnecessary and unfair to the plaintiff.

Umesh Pandey is Editor, Bangkok Post.

The ruling is a relief for many who feel they are being prosecuted by the junta, which has said it wants a reconciliation, to heal a society that has been divided with a wall that seems impossible to tear down.

With the government’s so-called road map getting closer to the finish line, unless it extends it again, the job of the military is to try to create an atmosphere that would help bring society together.

The reconciliation process is ongoing and there have been promises to give all parties a fair chance, but there seem to be glitches every time the process moves forward.

While the judiciary is making great strides in bringing about fairness in society, the administrative process seems to be heading the other direction, prompting a sharp retort from those on the receiving end.

The administration is putting more pressure on Pheu Thai and voices that are raising this issue with the public.

The decision by the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission to shut down the pro-Pheu Thai Voice TV is one such move, as are efforts to link red-shirt leader Wuthipong Kochathamakun and the recent seizure of new weapons at his residence although he has fled the law for three years, taking refuge in neighbouring countries.

These trivial issues could be enough to derail the reconciliation process, but those who benefit from the ongoing chaos in this country have taken steps to ensure the process of bringing down the divisive wall is never realised by smearing the other side with allegations that could lead to the use of Article 112.

The smear campaign is so strong former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who has been laying low for nearly two years, popped up to deny such allegations.

What is surprising is how these people behind the smear campaigns change their stance so easily. Until recently these very people took the opposite position, but as their grip on power continues to slip they changed their colour.

With less than 45 days remaining until the third anniversary of the coup, it remains clear Pheu Thai and its allies continue to dominate the political landscape, which scares those who thought a long hiatus from democracy would eventually erode the popularity of the party.

The military’s road map calls for general elections in about a year’s time, and every poll taken, whether sponsored by the military or private political parties, shows Pheu Thai maintains an overwhelming majority of parliamentary seats.

Despite a possible majority, getting the prime minister of their choice after the election could be a herculean task as 250 selected senators would need to endorse the candidate.

Many political observers feel the current smear campaign is a way to surgically remove the influence of Thaksin and his funding to Pheu Thai ahead of elections, causing party disarray. The aim is crippling the party, giving the military regime the upper hand to continue their grip on power.

But these people are underestimating Thaksin’s influence. Despite all their smear tactics, the man has managed to gradually cement his lead and even increase his voter base as was evident from the election results in 2011, the last general elections held in the country.

Let politics take its due course and let the people decide who should lead the country. The military regime should facilitate the reconciliation process and heed the voices of those involved so that in the future the military can avoid what it is so good at doing — defending the country from external threats.