In an article in yesterday’s Bangkok Post about the future of Thai politics, there is an enormous hole where the discussion of ideology should be. Parties (and future parties), according to the writer, appear to be devolving into regional groupings who offer to present a number of MPs (who will be elected on the basis of patronage and vote-buying of one form or another) who might then join whatever coalition offers them the best terms, according to whatever criteria they might have put into place. This would, of course, be a very backwards step in terms of progressive politics.
Ironically, the two likely new political parties (not properly considered in this article) are the two most likely to express some kind of coherent ideology, wrong-headed though that ideology is likely to be.
The two parties are, according to rumour and anecdote rather than hard fact, as is the way of Thailand, to represent the yellow shirt PAD and the green shirt military. Presumably they will come up with some anodyne-uplifting-luck inducing names with which to label themselves.
What would a PAD party stand for? It is difficult to be sure because of the contradictory nature of their leadership. They oppose the vote for poor people and wish to have portions (or all) of both houses nominated rather than elected in some fashion. They oppose globalisation and privatization so would perhaps introduce some protectionist measures (which would be disastrous – well, all of their policies are likely to be disastrous). Core leader Chamlong Srimuang seems to have some desire to turn Thailand into a gigantic monastery so we might expect a lot of social conservatism, more taxes on evils such as instant coffee, alcohol and sex, promotion of ‘traditional’ values and so forth. The movement has also been relentlessly told that politicians are corrupt and should not be in power – they will have either to retract this charge or make use of the Thai double think technique which says that the same act may have good or ill consequences depending on whether the person committing the act has a ‘pure’ mind or not.
The green shirt party have a clear ideology: they want to retain all the power they can, they will devote ever more resources to the military and will share the spoils among themselves. They are likely to try to justify this by talking up threats from other countries (Cambodia, China etc) and linking nationalism with patriotism. This kind of thing remains popular with certain sets of people. They are reputed to have a great deal of money to promote this view.
How will they deal with the fact that no political party now represents the interests of the majority poor, rural people? Well, apart from refusing them the vote, which would probably inspire rebellion, they will have to use Culture Wars and rely on ‘populism’ in terms of economic policies. It remains to be seen whether this will be sufficient to attract the votes of the rural poor.