Saturday, December 8, 2012

Thailand -Time bombs ticking for the Yingluck government

The Pheu Thai-led administration will only undermine itself if it doesn't stop playing with hot-button issues

The first and most prominent of these is the government's rice pledging scheme. Academics, political observers and independent organisations have tried in vain to convince the government that the scheme will lead the country into bankruptcy but the administration has stood its ground, citing the mantra that it is a good policy that benefits farmers.

Ms Yingluck herself declared in the House of Representatives that she did not care how much the rice stockpile accumulates as long as the country's farmers get more money.

It is true that the rice pledging scheme was the big promise Pheu Thai made to woo farmers during last year's general election campaign. It is also true that this scheme has now become a time bomb because of allegations of corruption. The government has yet to clarify the specifics of its 7.3 million tonnes of G-to-G rice sales and its claims of having already sold the rice stockpile.

During the no-confidence debate, the opposition raised the question of a dummy company posing as a representative of the Chinese government to buy rice from the stockpile at a special price.
Meanwhile, rice exporters claim they have yet to see any evidence that the government has exported rice to seven countries on a G-to-G basis.

They claimed that in the past year, there is only evidence that the government had shipped rice to Indonesia, and not to any other country, and that the rice stockpile is overwhelming the warehouse capacity.

It is true that Commerce Minister Boonsong Teriyapirom said he would appoint a committee to examine G-to-G rice deals from the past three years before transferring the inquiry to the Department of Special Investigation.

Post Today wondered why this government did not try to find out the truth about the opposition's accusation that a dummy company was representing the Chinese government. Instead, it expanded the inquiry to include the preceding Abhisit Vejjajiva government, even though when Pheu Thai was the opposition, it did not raise the issue of any G-to-G rice deals at that time.

By trying to extend the inquiry to cover the Abhisit administration, it will take longer to shed light on the alleged collusion between the Commerce Ministry and a certain businessman who set up the alleged dummy company. It seems this government does not want to uncover the truth quickly, which means the time bomb will only continue to grow in explosive power.

Meanwhile, the National Anti-Corruption Commission is waiting to receive evidence from the opposition Democrat Party before appointing a working committee to probe the rice corruption allegations.

Another political time bomb is the comprehensive flood management infrastructure investment worth billions of baht which the Yingluck government passed in a cabinet resolution, bypassing the normal open bid regulation as specified in the Prime Minister Office's regulation B.E. 2535 and the electronics procurement regulation B.E. 2549.

The cabinet's resolution empowers the flood management committee to use any means for this special project, reasoning that it is "urgent". However, Post Today reckons that it is another channel for possible corruption as the special procurement will not be subject to scrutiny as is the case in the normal government procurement process.

The government's rice pledging scheme and the flood management project's special procurement are contrary to what the government presented in a large poster of Ms Yingluck with a group of people under the banner: "To improve Thailand's international image, please cooperate to stop corruption". The poster was put up in front of the Civil Service Commission, opposite Government House.

It is ironic that the government is calling on the public to help combat corruption but fails itself to set a good example by ignoring allegations of corrupt practices, Post Today says.

The newspaper warns that no matter how strong the government's command of seats in the House of Representatives, or how solid the support of the red shirts, it could be toppled if it allows corruption to continue unchecked.

Apart from the corruption-related time bombs, Post Today cited the attempt of the Yingluck government to hand over Thailand's judicial independence to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to prosecute individuals for genocide and crimes against humanity in an attempt to punish the Abhisit government for ordering troops to crack down on the red-shirt protests of 2010, resulting in nearly 100 deaths and scores of injuries.

Another time bomb is the government's attempt to proceed with the third reading of the constitution rewrite as well as to push for the national reconciliation bill, apparently to smooth the path for exiled former premier Thaksin Shinawatra to come back to Thailand without having to serve his jail term.

If the government administers the country normally without playing with such explosive issues, it will surely survive a full term. Bangkok Post

No comments:

Post a Comment