UDD Welcomes Observations by Visiting French Delegation
French Senators cite the 2007 Constitution and the army as roadblocks to Thai democracy.
Comments by a French delegation to Thailand issued on September 6th by the online French media outlet lepetitjournal.com have been welcomed by the leadership of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD). After meeting with Thai political leaders and UDD Chairwoman Thida Thavornseth, the delegation of Senators of all political stripes asserted that the Thai army and the 2007 Constitution are persistent roadblocks to true democracy in Thailand.
UDD Chairwoman Thida appreciates their analysis and, in response, reaffirms that “the UDD is committed to a new People’s Constitution that would allow for the expansion of democracy in the Thai political system.”
The delegation’s request for a meeting with a representative of the Yellow Shirts was ignored.
In the interview by lepetitjournal.com, Socialist Party Senator Gerard Miquel said that
[The Thai] Parliament does not have considerable power. It is rather the army that holds power due to the  Constitution, which was passed at the behest of the military junta and the judiciary, and doesn’t give much power to the Parliament.
His critique of the Constitution was reaffirmed by his UMP colleague, Senator Bernard Saugey, who said that
Thailand is a country which, democratically speaking, is gridlocked. This is definitely due to the Constitution.
The 2007 Constitution reversed its 1997 predecessor’s requirement of a fully elected Senate. Today, the Senate consists of 76 elected and 74 appointed members. Furthermore, the 2007 Constitution granted amnesty to the 2006 coup leaders, a form of retroactive validation which could be used to justify similar extra-parliamentary action in the future.
Centre Party Senator Hervé Maurey expressed this concern by stating that
One realizes that the situation is complicated by the persistent threat of a military coup if the parliament goes too far.
He also compared French- and Thai-style democracies.
At first glance, one could think that there are democratic similarities [between France and Thailand] since there is a National Assembly which is elected in a seemingly democratic manner. But after our meetings [in Thailand], we realized that the Parliament and the Government itself only has a part of the power. There is also the army, which has a significant portion of the power, as well as the judges which are mostly connected with conservative forces and the military.
Nonetheless, the delegation acknowledged that there is still hope for progress. Senator Miquel said that
[The army] cannot contain the Thai people’s will indefinitely, developments are therefore certain to occur. The Red Shirts are very active. We met with Thida Thavornseth, a very committed woman. Eventually an opportunity must arise for things to progress.
The UDD, also known as the Red Shirts, is committed to the realisation of a genuine parliamentary democracy in Thailand. Together with Robert Amsterdam, they have worked tirelessly to hold Abhisit Vejjajiva’s government accountable for the massacres of pro-democracy protestors in the streets of Bangkok in April and May 2010.