“Our actual goal is the restoration of democracy. We don’t just want elections”

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Ahead of protests on May 21-22, the Democracy Restoration Group in Thailand says it aims for a change in the constitution itself

By V. Arun Kumar / The Dawn News / May 22, 2018

On May 22, 2014, Thailand’s military organised a coup overthrowing the country’s elected government. Since then, the military junta has revoked the 2007 constitution (except the second chapter which concerns the king) and Thailand has been under the rule of a military organization called the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO). Politics in Thailand had been marred by numerous military coups and a high degree of political instability, and country’s civil society organizations have been long fighting for strengthening the democratic regime in the country. The NCPO has imposed martial law and banned political gatherings in the country

Since January this year, many protests have been organized against military rule, and around seventy members of Democracy Restoration Group (DRG) have been prosecuted. The military government and Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha have been continuously postponing the election that was originally supposed to be held  in 2015. In a recent statement, Chan-ocha said that the election would be held in “early 2019 and no sooner”. The military junta has also been attempting to propagate the ‘idea of military’ in society with television channels and cinema increasingly reflecting pro-military themes and military slogans being heavily embedded into school curriculum.

Calling for the restoration of democracy in the country on the fourth anniversary of the coup, DRG and other civil society organizations are spearheading a protest march from Thammasat University in the capital, Bangkok to the Government House. In the context of the march that happened on May 21 and 22, The Dawn News spoke to Rangsima Rome of the DRG.

1) Tell us about your organization and the movement for restoration of democracy in Thailand.

My organization’s name is Democracy Restoration Group. As an organization, we are committed to restoring democracy to Thailand and we are opposed to the continuation of the military regime.

2) The movement not only focuses on calling for elections, but also scraping of the NCPO. Please tell us more about it.

For us, the elections are just the beginning. Our actual goal is the restoration of democracy. We don’t just want elections. Elections cannot be the goal. Even if we have elections forever, we won’t have a good system because the constitution is under the military regime.  After we have the elections, win freedom, and create a good atmosphere, we can start from there and change the situation for the better. We will have to change the constitution. When we have a good constitution, it will mean better opportunities for us. Our aim is to ensure that no more coups occur in Thailand.

3) There have been numerous military-led crackdowns on the protesters. What is the future course of action for the movement for the restoration of democracy in Thailand?

When the military tries to crack down on the protesters, it can become a bit risky for them too because society will realize that the violence is coming from the military. People who support the military will hesitate to do so because they are so violent. For this reason, I think the military tries to be careful before unleashing violence on people. However, if we want to restore democracy, we have to do more, and not in a violent way because we don’t want to follow that path.

In the long-term, we have to try to educate people through seminars and training sessions. However we have to struggle with the military government so we try to make people aware of the situation. We try to make people understand that democracy is the answer to their problems and that if they side with the military government, we will not have a good future. We will be stuck with the same problems such as corruption and human rights violations. This is why the military government cannot be the answer to the problems of the people.

4) The military seems to deeply embedded in the political sphere of Thailand, and the country has witnessed numerous military coups. How do you think a people’s democracy can be achieved in the Thailand?

I agree. It is in our culture. Normally, people feel really good supporting the military because they feel it is like the wall protecting the country. It goes much beyond support too. People are trying to think the same way the military does. So that’s why the military seems so deeply embedded in the political sphere of Thailand. It is quite difficult to do something good to bring about change. However, I think this is the right time to do so. I think people are starting to realize that even when there were no politicians for four years and the military regime was in control, the same problems continued. And because of this, people feel that they cannot rest their hopes on the military anymore. That is why I think maybe, we can start to cultivate a new political culture for the people through education.

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