On the 25th of August 2013 at Santi-Maitri Hall of Government House, Assoc. Prof. Tida Tavonseth, President of the United Front of Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) attended the first meeting of PM Yingluck’s political reform forum. The meeting was joined by 57 leading figures from various sectors in Thailand except representatives from the opposition Democrat Party and the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD).
Among the people who attended the meeting were former Prime Ministers Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, Somchai Wongsawat and Banharn Silpa-archa.
Other attendees include: Bhichai Rattakul, a former Democrat Party deputy leader, Uthai Pimchaichon, a former President of the Parliament, Gen. Sonthi Boonyaratkalin, the Matubhum Party leader and former Chairman of the Council for National Security (CNS), Anuthin Charnvirakul, the Bhumjaithai Party leader, Suwat Liptapanlop, a core member of the Chart Pattana Party, Payungsak Chartsuthiphol, Chairman of the Federation of Thai Industries (FTI), House Speaker Somsak Kiatsuranont and Senate Speaker Nikhom Wairatpanich.
“The people are happy that this forum is taking place and that is why I am here,” said Mrs. Tida before the meeting, “The entire society has to set targets together and once they share that same goal, they can set about achieving it. Each sector might have a different ideology but once they share that same objective, everyone can compromise. Looking solely at this point, I believe that we all share the same goal here, which is to seek democracy and justice in the society,” said the Chairwoman of the UDD.
Regarding the absent Democrat Party and PAD, Mrs. Tida believed that their absence would not affect the forum in any way because the meeting is conducted in a transparent matter where the people can see the whole country moving forward together. “If this meeting came up with an idea that everyone can concur, the Democrats would have no choice but to go along with it,” said Mrs. Tida.
At the beginning of her speech at the forum, Assoc. Prof. Tida said the Red Shirts do not have a duty to protect the government and she wanted the political reform forum to genuinely belong to the people, not just some 70 people invited by the government.
“I am here to represent the grassroots people. I came here to perform my duty as a citizen. I am not here to support the government,” said Mrs. Tida, “”I want to see this forum as a forum for the people of the whole country. The people’s participation is essential for the reform,” she insists.
Ms Tida also said the forum should not be used for groups in conflict to offer to take a step backward to bargain for their own interests because by doing this, it would not offer a way out for the country.
“This forum should exist for the people and to represents as a stage for the whole country to talk things over. It should be used to compile knowledge and experience rather than a place for negotiation and bargaining,” said the chairwomen of the UDD.
“The reform forum should start by setting up targets and the way forward for the economy, politic, and the society because these variables are interconnected. We might have a good political model but there is a lack of propulsion because the society is not ready to push forward,” she added.
The President of the UDD wants a democratic system with the King as Head of State and where the power truly belongs to the people. She wants a political system that is governed according to international norms. Mrs. Tida also explained that the 2007 constitution might satisfy some of these points but there is no equality.
“Middle class people always talk about freedom and rights but they are never concerned enough about inequality. What the people really want is political equality and an economy which is profitable for everyone in the country and the environment. In terms of the society, a way out for the country should enable the people with different political ideologies to live together in peace,” Mrs. Tida said.
“Political reform is impossible without constitutional amendment because it is the supreme set of political rules. Other changes should include the reformation of the rule of law, other judicial mechanisms and the economic structure from the ground up. I believed that the government is already at the beginning of all these processes,” she continued.
“The reformation process should be strategized according to the equality principle and liberal economic foundation but the problem is that these values are against the current political structure that is undemocratic. The way out for the country is to end this struggle between democratic and autocratic values. The people’s conflict stems from the on-going struggle between the conservative elites and the majority but their differences also can be extinguished through political freedom,” Assoc. Prof. Tida remarked.
PM Yingluck Shinawatra ended the first forum by outlining targets for the political reform process according to these seven headings:
1. Re-strengthening the democratic system with the King as Head of the State
2. Promotion of equality and reduction of differences in the society
3. Promotion of transparency and corporate governance
4. Promotion of equality in preserving basic rights of the citizens according to the rule of law.
5. Promotion of democratic values that involve every sector through the enhancement of majority rule and attention given to minority problems.
6. Promoting a trusting environment within the society
7. Promotion of public benefit that is based on justice and righteousness
PM Yingluck concluded her speech by reassuring that if the studies of each sector agrees with one another on any of the headings and there is no conflict, that point will be put into the plan of action immediately, especially solutions to end the current social conflict. Any idea that is unsolvable will be transferred to the related agency. There is also a need to study the root of political, economic and social problems in the society in order to find long-term solutions for these complications. PM Yingluck has given the order to Deputy Prime Minister, Phongthep Thepgarnjana and to Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister, Worathep Rattanakorn to head the research.