Possible Worst Case Scenarios for Thailand


Now that the election has gone quite well, it should be noted that there are still some ways things could get nasty in Thailand.

The Return of Thaksin

For example, the winning Pheua Thai party, could bring back Thaksin to Thailand, giving him amnesty, and maybe even try to return part of the money seized from his fortune. If this happens, there’s a high likelihood that something would put Phuea Thai out of power. Could be a series of yellow shirt street protests (and the many colors they have adapted since), followed by a military coup, or other a “judicial coup”.

It pretty much depends on what Thaksin wants – if he can contend himself with pulling the strings from abroad, things could go well. The thing is, with a man like him, you never know.

The Elite Toppling Election Results

It’s no secret that the elite, the Democrat party, certain elements of the palace and the army aren’t happy with the election results. And some of them might just pull some strings that put Phuea Thai out of power.

The Democrats are currently trying to abolish the Pheua Thai party on legal grounds. To be more precisely, one Democrat member says Yingluck was cooking rice noodles during her campaign, and handing it out to her supporters, which would have been illegal.

But the Democrat party also recommended the Election Commission to abolish Phuea Thai because banned politicians (particularly Thaksin and Chaturon Chaiseng) participated in the campaign.

There are also other “plans of attack” how Phuea Thai could be ousted – and one might feel as if those who want them out of power are assembling a collection of trump cards that they can play out to undo the election results.

One main difference though is that Yingluck and many of the lawmakers around her aren’t executives this time – thus, they could reform a new government under a different party name (seems like someone thought ahead). Yet, before we get involved in subtle nuances of the law too deeply, we should remember that in Thailand “where there’s a will there’s a way” when it comes to those kinds of matters.

If this would happen, it would revive red shirt protests and escalate the conflict, probably to levels of violence.

Two kinds of stupid

Now both things – Thaksin returning, or abolishing Phuea Thai – would require probably an equal amount of stupidity and recklessness that could throw Thailand into mayhem.

The next Defense Minister

A lot of it depends on who will be the next defense minister, and who will be in charge of the military power in Thailand. One of the main reasons why the 2006 coup happened was because Thaksin was trying to fill up high military ranks with people loyal to him.

There are rumors of a secret deal being made between Thaksin, the army and the other one, and hopefully that will be the way things go – they find a way to share the pie without tearing the country to pieces.

Database to the Rescue Again


It is again up to the Database section of the once honest Bangkok Post to speak at least something of the truth. In its Home Review column this week, which also includes some sharp observations about the integrity-challenged one’s attempt to ‘create a level playing field as we would have had in 1931,’ appears this paragraph:

“Blase and calm to a fault, the Tourism Development Office director Seksan Nakwong said there is nothing to worry about, not a single film maker is cancelling production because of all those red-shirt protests going on; on the contrary, the 12 advertisements, six documentaries, two music videos and two feature films should come in on time and under budget, why worry? Thai Nondestructive Testing explained to Mr Seksan (and the country) why it was very worried; managing director Chomduen Satavuthi said the protests were slowly eating up the government’s time, which has slowly caused delays or cancellations in state projects, which has slowly ended projects one by one, which has solely caused political uncertainty and damaged the company’s business; for that reason, Thai Nondestructive Testing intends to look overseas for new markets and work, expanding first into Sudan to establish an acoustic emission testing project, and to Vietnam, where it will set up a joint venture; and that is the state of the nation in the view of one company anyhow – that a country which requires Thai peacekeeping forces and a country dedicated to beating out Thailand in economic terms are more attractive than Thailand itself to a Thai company.”

Yes, a Thai company finds it easier to work in Sudan and Vietnam than the Thailand of the corrupt and incompetent Abhisit regime.

Incidentally, while the junta cronies have to make up ‘evidence’ according to the PAD’s ‘policy corruption’ laws, word is that there is at least one Minister who is demanding kickbacks on every deal that goes through in the Ministry that this non-gender specific person has responsibility for – I have heard this not just from civil servants there but directly from a person who was told to provide the bribe to get the deal done.

The Abhisit Regime: corrupt, incompetent and thoroughly unfit for public office.

Serious Politics and the Democrats


One feature of political parties that have enjoyed power in a democracy and then been voted out, especially when the defeat has been resounding, is that those who are committed to returning to power under democratic means have not only re-examined their ideology and the policies that flow from this but, perhaps even more important, is the discipline that leading party members are obliged to accept as the price for returning to credibility with the voters. The Labour Party under Tony Blair, the Democrats under Bill Clinton and especially Barack Obama are perhaps the most obvious examples of this – party ideology was (often in a series of bloody confrontations in political terms) forcibly readjusted to the new reality brought about by electoral victory by opponents and leading member required to keep on-message in supporting those changes. This is not perfect since the process colludes with the political environment stimulated by modern media that regards all forms of discussion or debate as evidence of disunity or the result of a ‘gaffe.’ Important debates are, therefore, stifled or held in secret without much public participation.

To what extent has Thailand’s Democrat Party followed this process? Well, there has certainly been little public debate of ideology or policies. In opposition, the Democrats consistently opposed every policy of the democratically-elected government, frequently in ad hominem terms. Now placed in power as a result of a series of deeply undemocratic activities, the Democrats have appropriated many of the same policies, albeit occasionally under different names. It would be reasonable to say that the Democrats have changed their ideology as a result of a shift in public opinion except that there is no coherent ideology and government spokespeople continue to talk in terms of being ‘virtuous’ and ‘technically-competent’ people – it is managerialism with the Thai characteristics of patriarchy and deference to the ruling classes.

Distinct from what they do, can anyone honestly say what, apart from office, the Democrats stand intellectually?

As for discipline, well, the Cabinet is already a shambles. The latest idiocy is a series of outright, inflammatory lies from Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban. One Cabinet Minister has already been forced out after a corruption scandal and several more are likely to follow – and this with all the ‘institutional benefits’ that the government supports. Are these people really serious politicians? Or are they just exercising their birthright of power?

For How Long Can Rich Little Abhisit Keep His Finger in the Dam?


It is hard to imagine Abhisit Vejjajiva remaining PM for long – and not just because of the astrological predictions made about his career.

The Democrat-led coalition has a very small majority and this is likely to be reduced further by a series of by-elections in the early part of next year. Further, the now-opposition Phuea Thai party is likely to try some of the tactics used by the Democrats in their rather inglorious period of opposition. This will include trying the get the party dissolved and subject it to various votes of no confidence. Despite the nonsense being talked about the Democrats as being ‘pure’ politicians, the reality is that their brand of politics has disfigured Thai politics for decades and it is not long before the first scandals break out either by their own MPs or some of their new coalition allies. Abhisit himself will have eventually to explain what the truth is about all of those draft-dodging allegations and the legitimacy of the process by which the army orchestrated the silent coup which brought him to power is being seriously questioned. There will presumably be a fair amount of street demonstrations by pro-democracy supporters outraged by this latest coup and it could well become personal. Sooner or later, people are surely going to start asking whether Abhisit really thinks it is justifiable to have leading members of the fascist PAD movement as senior Democrat MPs.

There is, of course, precious little expectation that Abhisit will suddenly discover a taste for policy formulation and deep thinking such as will be required for a Prime Minister during the economic crisis now affecting us all. It is to be hoped that some of the senior Democrats likely to be given important cabinet positions have the sense to realize that their usual free market ideology is wholly inappropriate for the current situation and that what is required is a high level of spending on policies badly needed to improve the lot of the Thai people as a whole: low-cost universal health care, village-level investment funds, regional development to deter labour migration and reduce the vulnerability of the economy to external environmental shocks – strange, I seem to have heard this somewhere before.

Increase the Minimum Wage


Wage inequality – that is, the ratio earned by the top 10% compared to the bottom 10% – has increased in Thailand enormously between 1995-7 and 2004-6. In fact, according to the Global Wage Report 2008-9, only Argentina saw a bigger increase among countries providing data. The report writers argue that it is those countries which experienced the worst economic crises which have experienced the largest increases and, in the case of Thailand especially, the increase results in a widening of the gap between the middle earners and the lower earners. In other words, it is the people at the bottom who are falling even further behind.

The current economic crisis is likely to make the situation even worse. Job losses are already mounting – there are 50,000 new unemployed across the country and the figure is expected to rise by up to a million, caused both by the financial crisis and the PAD disaster. The full number of unemployed is never entirely accurately known owing to limitations in technical capacity in the Ministry of Labour and because large numbers of people return to rural locations and share under-employment in agriculture. The informal sector is also very large and only partly documented.

It is not clear what the incoming Democrat-led coalition is planning to do to alleviate the suffering faced by the unemployed. There will be no increase in the minimum wage for January 1st, when it has been customary for such an increase to become effective. It is to be feared that the failed right wing ideology that has become endemic in the Democrats will lead to no increases in the minimum wage at all, on the pretext that this will make businesses more competitive – in reality, of course, this type of low wage cost manufacturing competitiveness has already disappeared from most industries in Thailand and the need is to upgrade infrastructure and, most urgently, the quality of the education system. The proper answer to the ongoing crisis is to follow Barack Obama’s example and launch a range of large projects to improve both economy and society. That is unlikely to happen in the new atmosphere of money politics.

More and Better Information on Bangkok’s Gubernatorial Election


Coincidence or not, both English language papers have started talking about Bangkok’s gubernatorial election today (I am always ahead of the game. Well, sometimes).

The Nation takes its support of the increasingly rightist Democrats seriously by talking up the achievements of incumbent Apirak ‘rarely seen’ Kosayodhin, as follows:

“As the incumbent, Apirak has lots of advantages. He belongs to the Democrat Party, which has strong support in all Bangkok areas. He has managed his job well enough to reduce traffic jams by improving road infrastructure and extending Skytrain routes. He has initiated bike lanes, which should be extended further. He should be credited for the creative plans to transform Bangkok, to enable it to compete with cities like London, Paris or Tokyo. He has also attracted more people to public transport as a way to save energy and resources.”

These improvements seem in reality to have had precious little to do with Khun Apirak, so far as I know. What are these plans to enable Bangkok to compete with London and Paris? Compete how? People are using public transport because of high petrol prices and because the government introduced free bus rides for people – not sure what his role in that was.

Oh well. How about the other candidates? Khun Prapat Chongsanguan is running for the PPP and formerly ran the MRTA so actually does understand public transport. Dr Kriangsak Charoenwongsak is a former Democrat MP running on programs for young people – perhaps he is the guy I mentioned yesterday – one of the problems I have in not watching television or getting news information from it is that I don’t actually know what most people look like.

There is also Khun Chuwit Kamolvisit – massage parlour baron – for once I am in agreement with the Nation, which also sneers as Khun Chuwit’s insistence on appearing as constantly furious like some kind of pantomime demon king. ‘Personality’ Leena Janjanja is being treated as a bit of a joke; she is the only female candidate – coincidence?

The final candidate is ML Nattakorn Devakul (ML denotes an aristocratic title). I mentioned yesterday that he appears to be the smartest of the candidates in terms of innovative thinking and internationalization, so far as I can tell. His ratings are low, apparently and so he remains an outsider.

The poll is due to take place on October 5th.  

More and Better Information on Bangkok’s Gubernatorial Election


Coincidence or not, both English language papers have started talking about Bangkok’s gubernatorial election today (I am always ahead of the game. Well, sometimes).

The Nation takes its support of the increasingly rightist Democrats seriously by talking up the achievements of incumbent Apirak ‘rarely seen’ Kosayodhin, as follows:

“As the incumbent, Apirak has lots of advantages. He belongs to the Democrat Party, which has strong support in all Bangkok areas. He has managed his job well enough to reduce traffic jams by improving road infrastructure and extending Skytrain routes. He has initiated bike lanes, which should be extended further. He should be credited for the creative plans to transform Bangkok, to enable it to compete with cities like London, Paris or Tokyo. He has also attracted more people to public transport as a way to save energy and resources.”

These improvements seem in reality to have had precious little to do with Khun Apirak, so far as I know. What are these plans to enable Bangkok to compete with London and Paris? Compete how? People are using public transport because of high petrol prices and because the government introduced free bus rides for people – not sure what his role in that was.

Oh well. How about the other candidates? Khun Prapat Chongsanguan is running for the PPP and formerly ran the MRTA so actually does understand public transport. Dr Kriangsak Charoenwongsak is a former Democrat MP running on programs for young people – perhaps he is the guy I mentioned yesterday – one of the problems I have in not watching television or getting news information from it is that I don’t actually know what most people look like.

There is also Khun Chuwit Kamolvisit – massage parlour baron – for once I am in agreement with the Nation, which also sneers as Khun Chuwit’s insistence on appearing as constantly furious like some kind of pantomime demon king. ‘Personality’ Leena Janjanja is being treated as a bit of a joke; she is the only female candidate – coincidence?

The final candidate is ML Nattakorn Devakul (ML denotes an aristocratic title). I mentioned yesterday that he appears to be the smartest of the candidates in terms of innovative thinking and internationalization, so far as I can tell. His ratings are low, apparently and so he remains an outsider.

The poll is due to take place on October 5th.