Former prime minister Anand Panyarachun yesterday questioned the government’s sincerity in tackling corruption following rumours of a deal between the military rulers and the old power clique.
He said the people in power should clearly reject the report if it is untrue, as it could damage the government’s credibility.
“What I am worried about most is the government’s sincerity in solving the corruption problem. There have been so many rumours, although I don’t think it’s true. It’s rumoured that a deal has been reached. I don’t know if this is true. If it’s true, we can’t [do much] about it. But if it’s untrue, the government should explain it,” he said.
Anand, who himself led a post-coup government in 1991, was speaking during a panel discussion on “Thailand’s economic society: challenges and reform”, organised by the Thailand Development Research Institute (TDRI) to mark its 30th anniversary.
He said that six months after the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) staged the coup on May 22, he had seen things that had pleased him and those that have frustrated him.
“Initially, many people including myself were happy that the conflict was stopped. But later when the new government took over, it seemed there were other dimensions than stopping the conflict,” Anand said.
For him, achieving national reconciliation and reform did not mean sparing people who broke the law. “These things must be clearly separated. We should not try to reach reconciliation by exchanging the benefits between both sides,” he said.
Anand noted that many other countries experienced worse division than Thailand, but they could leave conflict behind and reach reconciliation.
He said that a big challenge for Thailand’s reform effort was to decentralise power so that the underprivileged obtained greater opportunities.
“At present, the power is concentrated only on the top 10 per cent of the Thai people. This concentration of power is a big problem,” he said. “We have to give more opportunity to people at the bottom. We must return happiness to them. This is a big challenge for Thailand.”
He also said it had become a global trend for the central government to give more power to local governments. “In China, local administrations have a free hand on many matters. We cannot obstruct this global trend,” he said.
For Anand, reform is an unending process that needs improvement from time to time. “This is something Thai society needs to be aware of. You say that things will be all right after the reform. But reform actually is a process that never ends. You do changes today and will have to make them again 10 years later.
“Writing a good constitution may not be the next solution. An election is just a tool of democracy and there are also other components,” he said.
First published: The Nation, November 25, 2014