Good Coup/Bad Coup: Dilemmas in the Struggle for Democracy

The Thai military coup last month, presents dilemmas to the members of the Thai women’s movement. This article shows that although many women in Thailand were relieved that the corrupted government of Thaksin’s Regime was overthrown some were disappointed when the Council for Democratic Reform abolished the 1997 Constitution along with the Thaksin Government. It was like “throwing the baby out with the bath water” as the old saying goes. For the last ten years, Thai Women’s Watch, a women’s group formed to follow-up the 1995 Beijing Fourth World Conference Platform for Action, had been at the forefront of promoting Thai women’s participation in politics and appointments in decision-making in the government. They don’t want to see the efforts gained thrown out by the coup, especially the Article 30 and 80, which recognized gender equality, and the elimination of discrimination based on sex. Professor Pawadee Thonguthai of Thammasart University, Vice-President of Thai Women’s Watch Group, says “those articles in the 1997 Constitution relating to equal rights for men and women are non-negotiable.” WE MOVE group, formerly known as the “Women and Constitution Network”, decided to show their position to the coup leaders by not pushing to have women in the interim cabinet that was set up. But the Council for Democratice Reform surprised them two weeks after the coup by the appointment of 10 women among the 65 members of the Advisory Committee to advise the interim government on democratized governance. The Article 3 of the draft Interim Constitution guarantees basic rights, human dignity, and equality under the law in accordance with the democratic rule under the King as head of state. Two professionally qualified women were appointed to the new cabinet: Dhipavadee Meksawan and Khaisri Sriarun. The Office of the Attorney General is now headed by a woman, Jaruwan Mentaka, to investigate corruptions and the abuse of power by members of Thaksin government. A female Appeal Court judge, Sodsee Sattayatham was appointed to the Election Commission. Seventeen women from different professional groups and walks of life were appointed to the 342 members of the National Legislative Assembly. Last week, for the first time in Thai history, Tarisa Wattanakes was elected by the board to head the Bank of Thailand. Thai women’s opinions on the recent coup are as diverse as those of Thai men. There are women who are against Thaksin and support the coup. There are those that support Thaksin and are against the coup, and there are also those women who are against Thaksin and against the coup. As long as women like Rosana Tositrakul, Veena Thoopkrajae, journalists, the People’s Alliance for Democracy and female university students are continually allowed to speak out on their opinions, between now and next year’ s national election; there is hope for the future of Thai democracy.

Cleaning-up the Sea and Ocean

Walking along the famous Hua Hin beach in Thailand recently, I was shocked to see that the beach and the sea were dirty. It is difficult for me to understand why a country that spends a large sum of taxpayer’s money in promoting tourism, can allow its beaches to deteriorate into such a filthy condition. Why would the visitors want to come to swim in a polluted sea or sunbathe on dirty beaches? This problem can be solve so easily, because pollution are made by people throwing garbage in to the sea, and sending chemical-filled waste water from opened pipes of houses and apartments straight onto the beaches. Health and municipality officials can make changes by giving public education, combined with strong penalty measures aiming to stop polluters from damaging the environment. By joining over 100 countries that will take part in the United Nations-supported campaign “Clean Up the World Weekend”, 15-17 September 2006, Thailand should use this occasion to focus on cleaning up it’s beaches. This clean-up campaign was started in 1989 when an Australian solo yachtsman and builder Ian Kiernan, appalled by the amount of rubbish he came across while sailing, organized a clean up of the Sydney Harbor, during which some 40,000 volunteers removed rusted car bodies, plastics, glass bottles and cigarette butts from the water. Thailand should continue with the good work already done in the South by cleaning up the seas and beaches after the December 2004 Tsunami Disaster. On the other hand, I was amazed to read the other day that there are swarms of lowly thumb-sized ocean creatures called “Salps” that occupied as much as 38,600 square miles of the ocean surface from Australia to South Africa, the Southern United States, Western Mediterranean Sea to the North Atlantic Ocean! From my point of view, these creatures are disgusting ocean polluters, but marine scientists said that salps play a critical role in transporting a greenhouse gas into the deep sea. They eat up to 74 percent per day of the marine plants called phytoplankton, which absorb excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, much of which results from the fossil fuels human beings burned and sent up to the atmosphere. The salps then defecated. Their sinking pellets transport up to 4,000 tons of carbon daily down to deeper water. The irony of the situation is that sometimes polluters can be useful. In this case, the salps pollute the sea water while contribute to preventing carbon from re-entering the atmosphere by sinking it to the bottom of the sea, thus preventing the greenhouse effect and possibly global warming.