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Thailand needs a 'grand rainbow change': academic
Publication Date : 12-03-2013
Thailand needs a "grand rainbow change" coalition to create a new set of basic rules, with a division of labour and a genuine democratic arena where all can compete, Marc Saxer, director of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation's Bangkok office, concluded in a recent analysis of the political conflict.
Saxer, a keen observer of Thai politics, proposed that a platform based on a lowest common denominator is needed in which "progressives, liberals and enlightened conservatives" can work together to fight against the "deeply-entrenched status quo".
In his paper "How can Thailand overcome its transformation crisis? A Strategy for Democratic Change", Saxer pointed out three existing major obstacles:
First, the deeply entrenched status quo will resist.
Second, traditional ideas will continue to provide discursive power to those in the status quo.
Third, collective action problems will continue to "hamper" the formation of a powerful coalition for democratic change.
"Marginalised progressives need to join forces with liberal reformers and enlightened conservatives in a grand rainbow change coalition," Saxer stressed.
He believed a "grand bargain" to settle the current political conflict would not suffice, because it would not be enough to overcome the deeper transformation crisis.
"Thailand's traditional political, social and cultural order is no longer able to satisfy the needs of a globalised economy and pluralistic society," he said.
Saxer appears to distrust both sides of the political divide, as he believes that both have a proven track record of tampering with the checks and balances system, as well as violating human rights.
To make matters worse, he said no "broad societal deliberation" that would allow for a social contract to be re-negotiated, had emerged over the past year.
"On the contrary, public debate is poisoned by polarisation, hate speech, character assassination and cyber mobbing on the one side, as well as censorship and prosecution on the other.
"When a group of law scholars proposed to reform the notorious [lese majeste law], a de facto coalition between the 'red' government and its yellow critics made it clear that they would not be prepared to change the existing order," he said.
"More recently, the debate over the charter amendment and 'reconciliation' bills served as another sad example for the absence of a rule-based and goal-oriented process of deliberation."