คำสัมภาษณ์ของพัชณีย์ คำหนัก ผู้ประสานงานองค์กรสังคมนิยมแรงงาน เกี่ยวกับการเมืองเลือกตั้ง สัมภาษณ์โดย หนังสือพิมพ์ Epohi พรรคแนวร่วมฝ่ายซ้าย (ไซรีซ่า) ประเทศกรีซ
Ms. Patchanee Kumnak, coordinator of the Socialist Workers Thailand organization (SWT) gave an interview to Epohi newspaper from SYRIZA, Greece. https://www.epohi.gr/article/46307/patkhane-koymnak-oi-ekloges-den-tha-dhmioyrghsoyn-mia-pio-dhmokratikh-koinonia
1) How do you judge things in the run-up to the May elections?
The pro-democracy movement has previously demanded to revoke the Constitution 2017 because it was written under military rules and undemocratic, therefore, we need to draft the new one involved by the people. When we got the government under the Constitution 2017 led by General Prayuth Chan-o-cha, we could assess our future and how would go. We are losing our future.
Thai workers and poor people have been in very difficult times beyond our imagination because of the outbreak of Covid-19 and its economic impacts. The people’s livelihood is in danger nowadays because of the bad politics of the government. However, we are still standing up for our rights and freedom until now. And we hope anti-dictatorship political parties will overwhelmingly win the general elections on May 14 such as Move Forward Party, Pheu Thai Party, and Commoners Party because we have learned a lot about what the previous pro-military government has done.
Our organization, Socialist Workers Thailand always communicate with activists and people in general by using our monthly paper and publishing as a tool to campaign for the restoration of the labour movement by labour organizing after the youth movement uprising in 2020 and 2021 was over. As suppressed by the authorities, there are many young activists in Thailand who are political prisoners, either in jail or awaiting trial on bail. Their only “crime” has been to criticize the military and the monarchy. According to the report of Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, in the past year, there have been over two thousand prosecutions against 1161 protesters. Some protesters face multiple charges. A total of 143 youngsters under the age of 18 have been charged. Most people face various “offenses” concerned to protest. But there are 124 people who have been charged under the draconian Lèse-majesté law. (Criminal Code, article 112)
As you know, the 2017 Constitution shapes Thai politics that results in ongoing political conflicts between the military-backed up by the monarchy and ordinary people, our organization concerns much about how we can succeed in releasing political prisoners, abolishing the Lèse-majesté law, progressive taxation of the rich, reform of monarchy, military and justice system. Our strategy in coming elections is people must vote for anti-military and pro-universal social welfare parties.
2) Under what conditions are these elections held? And to what extent do you agree with those who express concern that the electoral process will not be fair and unfalsified?
The election was called after Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha dissolved the House of Representatives on March 20 – just three days before the Lower House completed its four-year term.
However, Thailand’s elections are based on military dictatorship rules and a dictatorial constitution. The Thai parliament consists of 750 members – 500 MPs who sit for four years in the House of Representatives, and 250 senators, who have a five-year term. In the House of Representatives, there are two groups of MPs: 400 MPs from constituencies and 100 from the party-list system this time.
But the problem is 250 seats of senators, a large majority – 194 – are handpicked by the ruling National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) from the 2014 military coup. A further six are reserved for the armed forces leaders, the supreme commander, the defense permanent secretary and the national police chief. So, it will not be a free election at all because the power of military-appointed senators or electoral systems is designed to benefit the military. it’s not just the 500 elected MPs that choose the next prime minister, but the senators join the vote for the prime minister. We can then end up with a prime minister who has overwhelming support in the appointed Senate and end up with a pro-military PM again if pro-democracy parties cannot win over 250 seats.
3) In the surveys, we see that Paethongtarn Shinawatra is ahead. How do you interpret this? What are the social alliances she has created?
In an opinion survey conducted in Bangkok in March, Mr.Pita Limjaroenrat, leader of Move Forward Party is ahead followed by Pheu Thai Party’s advisory chief Paetongtarn Shinawatra and Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha of the United Thai Nation Party, Thai Sang Thai Party led by Sudarat Keyuraphan, Thai Liberal Party Leader Sereepisuth Temeeyaves. (See https://www.thaipbsworld.com/move-forward-party-leader-first-choice-in-bangkok-for-next-pm-nida-poll/ )
Pheu Thai, Move Forward, Thai Sang Thai, and Thai Liberal Party can be coalitions in organizing a government as they used to discuss if they can win together over 250 seats. We hope that they can win the dictatorship and be a coalition in the first stage.
4) What will the Left, the pro-democracy activists, and the people who demonstrated in the great mobilizations of 2020 do in these elections? Is there a candidate who expresses your aspect, and to what extent?
Pro-democracy activists, NGOs, and workers are active in raising political and economic issues and submitting demands to MP candidates for their well-being and democracy. They see that they can take this opportunity during the election campaign to give pressure on political parties to keep promises. Pro-democracy parties are proposing to draft a new constitutional law, increase wages and welfare, boost the economy such as tourism, and decrease the influence of the military by revoking compulsory conscription, amending the Lèse-majesté law, etc.
These policies above responded demands of the people’s movement, including us, Socialist Workers Thailand. Anyway, we, SWT, see that the coming elections will not be able to create a more democratic society. What proves this is that the Lèse-majesté law will never be repealed and political prisoners will not be released, no matter which mainstream party wins the election like Pheu Thai or Move Forward parties.
The Lèse-majesté law plays a role in blocking democracy because the military and reactionaries use it to attack anyone who wants to change society for a better living. By using the false pretext that progressive ideas and proposals are “illegal” is another reason that Law 112 plays a role in stifling democracy. The main reason for this is that
The coming elections will not be able to lead to a real reduction in inequality. And a society with economic and power inequality is a society in which the majority of citizens are unable to fully participate in politics, even the minimum wage increase because mainstream political parties always consider capitalist opinions. We realize the limits of the Thai bourgeoisie parliament very well, even the leftist party is blocked to share any space in it.
5) What does the military junta expect from these elections? And what is the attitude of Maha Vajiralongkorn?
I view that the military and its cronies expect to win and continuously be in power through their pro-military parties like United Thai Nation Party, and Palang Pracharath Party as they have 250 appointed senators in their pockets. And they have placed their cronies in different positions in the bureaucratic systems. We can imply King Rama 10’s attitude through some of the actions of the pro-military parties. They are a strong nexus, including big corporates such as Charoen Pokphand Group (CP). They are very rich. They never compromise with the youth movement and labour movement. That’s why democracy is still unstable.