It is happening slowly and, as economist say, from a low base, but the reporting on the political situation in Thailand is starting to become a little more sophisticated and accurate. Of course, there will still be plenty of lazy stories following the ‘red shirts are all Thaksin supporters’ nonsense still being peddled by discredited sources such as The Nation and the Abhisit regime.
An article on the BBC website by Jonathan Head shows (about time) a willingness to penetrate the surface and actually speak to people outside of Bangkok. Their concerns are expressed and their relationship to political figures assessed. The absence of true democracy in Thailand is the principal reason why the poor are so frustrated by the elites and the Invisible Hand system.
This is not a simple rural-urban split either: many people in Bangkok are sympathetic to the need for fairness in the country and are not well-disposed to the Invisible Hand, which is now being characterised openly as led by the Privy Councillor Prem Tinsulanonda. Many more, of course, are migrant workers in Bangkok – holidays such as Songkran make it clear just how many migrants there are when the trains, buses and cars are full of people heading home to celebrate with their families. In some ways, they can be more disposed to support change than people in rural areas in the same way that inequality becomes more of a problem when people are forced on a daily basis to confront the injustice of the system. On the other hand, there are no doubt plenty of poor people who are willing to vote against their own best interests owing to Thailand’s version of the Culture Wars. Thai society is just as divided by different beliefs and ideologies as any other and, insofar as this is used as the basis of rational debate, is an entirely healthy thing. Ensuring that it is jaw-jaw and not war-war is the important issue. The government should be setting a better example.