Opinion: Under Sudarat, Pheu Thai will never have moral courage

Looking back, the 2017 constitutional referendum is something that will baffle me forever. 

More than 100 politicians, activists, journalists, and supporters of the No campaign were arrested before the vote because the junta wanted to shut them up, and effectively, they did.

With thousands of police officers on the streets, people went to vote on what many believe to be the most undemocratic constitution ever written in Thailand’s history. 

That is saying something in a country plagued by 13 military coups since the absolute monarchy was replaced by the constitutional monarchy in 1932. 

To date, the country has already written 20 charters, which only places it behind Haiti, Venezuela, and the Dominican Republic with 24, 26, and 32 constitutions respectively.

Viroj Pao-in, the Pheu Thai Party’s chief at the time, said after the referendum that he believes most people voted for the charter because they wanted the junta to hold a general election as soon as possible. 

Here is what I could not nor will ever understand: the majority of the voters wanted a new election so bad that they voted for a charter which basically guarantee that the previous junta leader will become the next prime minister?      

Right now, 500 elected members of parliament and 250 junta-appointed senators can pick who is going to be Thailand’s premier.

If we keep going this way, Prayut will continue to need only 126 MPs to be on his side to get a second term.

With support from protestors, Pheu Thai and the Move Forward Party (MFP) have finally gained the courage to push for an amendment to the constitution to get rid of these junta-appointed senators. 

One of the Future Forward Party’s election campaigns was to amend the constitution, so being its successor, the MFP has a lot more interest in this than Pheu Thai ever will.

And it shows.

The MFP said they want to quickly amend constitutional clauses related to this shamefully appointed senate but Pheu Thai preferred to just sit back and create a new constitutional drafting committee to amend the entire charter instead.

In a way, Pheu Thai is right. It is almost borderline crazy to believe that at least 84 senators will vote to sack themselves because that is exactly what is needed. 

To amend anything in the constitution, you will need votes from opposition MPs, coalition MPs and at least one-third of the senate to approve it. 

What Pheu Thai is saying is that they want to be realistic and that setting up the drafting committee is the only way to move forward. 

They said that the majority of opposition and the coalition have already agreed on setting up the committee so the only major hurdle now is for the Senate to agree on it and then the whole charter can be amended.

What Pheu Thai failed to hear is the demands of the protestors and the younger generation. They are not only asking for the charter to be amended, but they also want the junta to go away and put an end to the vicious coup cycle once and for all.

The MFP understand that so they want to eliminate the senate’s ability to vote for the next prime minister as soon as possible because they believe that the tide is turning against the repressive regime. 

They believe that the prime minister could be forced to step down soon and they want to make sure that Prayut will not be able to find his way back in through the junta’s claws on the constitution.

On the other hand, there is no sense of urgency from Pheu Thai because of the lack of morale, courage and strong leadership while Sudarat Keyuraphan, its so-called chief strategist, is pulling the punches.

There is no doubt that Sudarat is a smart politician and a shrewd tactician but that is not what Pheu Thai or the opposition need right now. 

What the party needs is a strong leader to stand up and say that now is the time to get rid of Prayut’s regime because the people are asking for it. No more conditions; just go.

They need a leader who would dare to say that these appointed senators are the worst thing that has happened to the democratic development of this country and there is only one way to fix it which is for them to go. Now.

Sadly, what the opposition also need is unity because what they are up against is a determined and powerful adversary.

However, if this weakening Pheu Thai still cannot make up their mind on which side of history they want to be on, they will continue to lose their supporters to the MFP. 

The Democrat Party have already chosen and they have chosen wrongly because they do not have enough courage to stand by their own ideology. They just want to be in power.

Pheu Thai used to fully stand by the people. They should do so once again because they are at risk of becoming just another relic of the past, along with the Democrats and these dinosaurs that keep on refusing extinction.

Hopefully, the yellow submarine will wake them up. 

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