ASIA/THAILAND - Corruption and Rule of Law: Challenges to the nation on the eve of elections

Bangkok (Fides Service) - The perennial problem of corruption, the gap between elites and masses of rural population; respect for the rule of law and freedom of expression: these are the most urgent challenges in the Thai society as it prepares for political elections, scheduled for tomorrow, July 3. This is what Fr. Peter Watchasin, a priest of the diocese of Bangkok and National Director of Pontifical Mission Societies in Thailand stresses in an interview to Fides.
There are two main parties confronting each other in the electoral competition: the Democrats, led by the Premier Abhist Vejjajiva, and the "Pheu Thai" party led by 44 year old Yingluck Shinawatra, the sister of 'former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who in recent weeks had favorable opinion polls.
The Director explains to Fides: "After last year’s violence (see Fides 19 and 20/05/2010), the country was divided in half between supporters of Democrats and those of so-called 'red shirts'. There was political activism in past weeks, and this is a good sign for the involvement of civil society. But in the meantime the most important problems are waiting to be dealt with seriously and will be a task of the new government: people feel that corruption is pervasive, that the rule of law is weak and justice 'is not equal for all'. Moreover, in recent months there has been a steady erosion of press freedom of expression, with the closure of radio and blogs that opposed the government: this is also not a good sign for the health of democracy".
Besides with regards to the vote "the dark forces are always incumbent - many think of the longa manus of the former leader Thaksin Shinawatra - who in the past heavily influenced the life of the nation. According to some observers, if the red shirts won, there could be a new military coup. But I think the Thai population is more mature, more aware and democratically more active compared to the past and would not accept it". The Catholic Church, the priest informs, "has urged citizens to do their duty to express the vote, to consider the common good and work for reconciliation. It must be said that, 13 months after the revolt of 2010, the nation has not done much to heal the wounds of society".
"Our hope - he concludes - is that violence does not return and that the country can create an atmosphere and put into practice justice, harmony, fairness, legality". (PA) (Agenzia Fides 07/02/2011)

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