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Thailand’s Soft-Power Reform

 Thailand’s Soft-Power Reform

1 September 2010

Clearly, the process of reform in Thailand is being driven by an agenda set by the Office of the Prime Minister. Two committees have now been formed: The Reform Committee and the Assembly Committee for Reform. The mandate of these committees is to draw people from all strata of Thai society to join together and decide what direction we want the reform to take, what we want it to do and how it’s going to do it. It will then be up to certain responsible parties to put our decision into action.

It is going to be up to every Thai from every sector of the Country to assume his or her own individual part in executing this program of reform. We need to be thinking about the meaning of life and the kind of lifestyle we should be seeking for ourselves. We need to be improving the way we do our work, reforming the very system in which we perform our work. Indeed, it is the duty of all of us to reform, revise, improve and update whatever needs to be changed for our own collective and individual long-term benefit.

As it is, this whole process of reform is being neglected by those in administrative or executive power.,We may claim to have our own Constitution, our own legislative body and our own autonomous institutions, but we can hardly claim that these bodies are actually getting anything done.

It’s going to be up to all of us to pull together and share our own individual perspectives on the state of our Nation. Otherwise, we’ll never make sense of the situation. If we view society from a perspective of power, then we need to grasp it in terms of the three power-players of society:
One: Governmental power comes right from the Constitution and shows up in the many laws that have since been enacted. It is the very device whereby the Government fulfills its duty to legislate, administer justice and govern the Nation in all matters of concern, whether through central or local state agencies. In each such instance, people exercise power indirectly through their representatives functioning at various levels within the Parliament.

In times past, Thai society was not very diligent or energetic in seeking its sense of purpose, so the people of the time simply yielded to the power of the State. As for the State, it carried on quite like the father who presumes to know best on how things should be done and commands that things be done in just that way. So the people descended into a dependency relationship, leaving themselves virtually no opportunity to gain any practical experience in thinking for themselves and managing their own affairs.

The people and their communities weakened as the authority of the State grew more powerful throughout this entire period.

Two: The power of capital is the power of the business sector, which grew by leaps and bounds under the capitalist system. The business sector tends to accumulate increasingly larger amounts of knowledge, science and technology with extreme rapidity. It competes steadily to garner as much profit as it can make. The business sector thus tends to become a very powerful force in practically no time at all.

Originally, the business sector had to rely on the authority of the State in order to do business. Later on, however, it learned to seize political power through the system of representative government. It was thus able to set public policy that would be of considerable benefit to the investment sector. The authority of investment capital and the power of the State essentially blended into one single power center. The upshot was that the authority of the State was being forced to benefit a mere minority already endowed with ample opportunity.
Three: The power of society is essentially the power of the people. In principle, it should be the highest and most energized power base of all. In the past, however, it was the weakest of all. The reality is that, for society to show any strength or to manifest any driving force, it needs to come together in unity of spirit and in unity of action. It must inquire, probe and investigate. It must monitor the use or abuse of all instances of power or authority. Finally, it must be unrelenting – once it has taken the proverbial bull by the horns, it must not let go. It must persist in managing its own affairs in a manner consistent with its own just concerns.

The Constitution of 2540 (1997) and 2550 (2007) laid out certain rights and corresponding obligations. Yet, in actual practice, results were few. As it was, society lacked a solid path to full participatory citizenship, with few real opportunities to achieve those ends.

Unlike many of the developed nations in the world at the time, power held by society was no match for that of the State or capital investors. Nonetheless, the combined voices and the roles of the people can still greatly affect the direction and general welfare of their nation.

The various public policies that are put into effect should enable the people to bring their ideas together in a serious effort to develop and enhance their quality of life. They should not be leaving it for someone else to take up the matter on their behalf, acting as a lone individual supposedly speaking for an entire mass of people.

Further, society cannot derive support from the mere enactment of a law or from some quick fix executed by the fiat of one man. Instead, its people need opportunity and access. They must feel free to assemble, to put their heads together and to act. For society to acquire power or authority of its own, its members – the people themselves – must unite in a spirit of solidarity as the rightful owners of power or authority.

The process of reform in Thailand in its current design stage does not reject strong government, but does instill confidence in the principle of “soft power.” It seeks to build a movement to gain access for people from every sector and locality. It urges them to unite their mental faculties in developing public policy, and to take up all matters that relate to the needs of their communities.. Further, they must act with continuity, with no periodic interruptions.

The goal is to make the various issues that come up become “society’s own agenda,” as its members unite together to solve them and to press onward. This agenda must be one which society owns jointly and exclusively.

What we propose is a virtual test whether we’re at the time when the energy and power of our own society can grow and be dominant in the lives of its people.

It’s long past time when the people started to play a role in the happenings of their own Nation. It involves merging this role with the energy and power of the State and with the power of investment capital. Only then will inequities decrease and societal justice finally prevail.

 Amphon Jindawatthana
Secretary General
National Health Commission