Tuesday, August 04, 2020

The key to understanding Thai politics

Apr 21. 2019
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Re: “‘Conscientious Thais’” just a code word for yellow-shirt junta supporters”, have Your Say, April 19.

My answer to Eric Bahrt’s interpretation of Thai politics:

By calling a group of Thais as “conscientious”, I mean law-respecting Thais who contribute instead of posing a burden to their country. Thais who regularly pay their due taxes, and behave themselves within the confines of the law. Thaksin Shinawatra is accused of avoiding taxes – behaviour unbecoming of a politician, much less a national leader. Thaksin is also described as a “highly divisive figure” by (among others)  the Economist.

The yellow-shirt leaders who led their followers to occupy Suvarnabhumi Airport in 2008 have been sentenced – and are serving time, with no one escaping.

Thaksin is still at large for allegedly ordering the disruption of the Asean Summit in April 2009 in Pattaya. That disruption prompted the Abhisit government to cancel the meeting and evacuate participating national leaders out of danger by helicopter.

The airport siege and the Asean meeting siege are two equally serious crimes – but in one the leading perpetrators took responsibility for their actions while in the other they did not.

Politics is similar to sport, in that after an election there are winners and losers. For Eric Bahrt to say that Yingluck “kicked Abhisit’s butt” when she ran against him for prime minister is absurd. Sometimes winners win by cheating and by bending the established rules, and losers lose because they play by the rules and adhere to principles.

Yingluck won hands-down because she promised to pay farmers Bt15,000 per tonne of rice – more than twice the market price at that time. That alone has cost Thai taxpayers Bt600 billion! Corruption was also rife in the rice scheme. Was that a wise policy – or a foolish one?

As for the Democrats, don’t write them off just yet. Their day will come. That’s normal in politics.

Lastly, Thaksin appeals to the poor not because the poor have been ignored by the Democrats – they were ignored by every government in the past 80 years. The best description of Thaksin’s successful populist platform in the past 15 years is “pork barrel politics at its ugliest”!

Vint Chavala

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