The PPP-led coalition government has proved itself to be true to its principles by carrying through another round of funding to 900 villages throughout the Kingdom. 900 million baht has been spent in this round and more will follow for the remaining 700 eligible villages in due course.
Investing in local communities follows the policies established by the Thai Rak Thai government of 2001-6, under PM Thaksin Shinawatra, which was ended by a military coup and a subsequent period of disastrous junta rule. The pro-poor policy was supplemented by the establishment of government agencies to promote small and medium-sized enterprises and the OTOP program, which provided marketing and distribution help for local communities to produce traditional products without moving from their homes. For decades, people have left their homes and moved to Bangkok and other cities in order to find better paying jobs. This has led to the creation of slums in the cities, pressure on public services (sewage and health, among others), depression of wages for everyone and social problems resulting from the break-up of families – imagine what can happen if married couples are split for lengthy periods with one away for work. All of these things represented serious societal problems which had not previously been seriously addressed by any government before Thai Rak Thai.
A further problem was also emerging with the signing of Free Trade Agreements with other countries – these agreements, like all capitalist events, lead to winners and losers. The losers are mostly those who are less well-educated, older and in rural communities whose previous production patterns have been affected by the arrival of cheaper competition from overseas. The signing of the agreement with China, for example, has put a lot of northern Thai garlic and onion farmers out of business. The government, pushing forward with agreements, needed to put in place some measures in order to help out these people across the country.
The success of these policies in electoral terms has been obvious and they now represent the mainstream of Thai political discourse – in economic terms, it is still being determined if this is the best way for policies to be implemented.