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The Hits Just Keep on Coming’

Brad Walker 14.12.2008 19:30
The Hits Just Keep on Coming’ - Global - Financial - Village - Royal Kingdom - PAD - Tourism - Thaksin Shinawatra - Tourist

The Top 40 radio stations of yore used to say “The hits just keep on coming” and spin another supposed hit record. Unfortunately, those of us in the tourist industry (I own a Guest House in Hua Him) do not need the kind of hits we have been taking recently.

The global financial meltdown is a situation that is not of Thailand’s making, though we are being affected by it and will continue to be so affected. But the debacle played out at the two airports was totally Thai in both making and character.

As an expat (American) married to a Thai and living here fulltime for the last 4 years and part time for five years prior to that, I have seen my share of the local political landscape. I was here for the last coup, which merited a huge, collective shrug of the shoulders in our village (Ked on, near Rattanaburi in Suring). Yeah, the Village residents pretty much all went for Thaksin (my wife and I actually borrowed money to finish our house from the Thaksin created fund for infrastructure improvements in the area. Paid The Hits Just Keep on Coming’ it back, too), but nobody seemed to much care when I broke the news of the coup that I had gleaned from my (and the villages only) internet connection. At the time, I did not know that coups are a recognized way to change governments here in the Royal Kingdom; there having been a total of 17 prior to this last one since 1932, so I guess it wasn’t that big of a deal (For perspective, the US has had 20 presidential elections in the same time frame, resulting in far fewer regime changes).

But along come Sondhi and the PAD. Now if you ask me (no one did), PAD should stand for “People against Democracy” since one of their basic tenants is the disenfranchisement of the entire Disarm area, who keep voting for Thaksin or his surrogates no matter what his opponents do. Again, nobody asked, but my feeling is, the PAD group are a bunch of elitist snobs who think they know better than anyone else “what is good for Thailand” i.e., them. However big a crook Thaksin was (and probably still is), he knew how to turn out the poor Disarm residents and to get them to vote for him. His opponents say he bought their votes and he probably did, to some extent, but I know dozens of people who support Thaksin, including my wife’s entire family and none were ever paid to vote. They were paid to attend rallies (entirely legal) and the Thaksin Government spent millions of baht on the abovementioned program to improve the infrastructure of the area, where none before would, so it is entirely understandable why their loyalty is where it is.

Lest one get the idea that I am a supporter of Thaksin, let me kill that idea right now. Between his cell company deal and the joke that became the Suvarnabumi International Airport (“I got an idea, let’s build it on a swamp!”), Thaksin should have been booted long ago and his convictions for corruption should be enough to convince anybody of his unfitness for office. I would hope they bring him back and make him serve his well deserved jail sentence. Unfortunately, even from afar, Thaksin is simply better at politics than any of his opponents. Better at organizing, better at winning the confidence of the electorate and better at turning it into votes. Why don’t his opponents learn from him?? Instead of telling each other how smart they are and how urbane and more sophisticated Bangkok residents are when compared to their Disarm cousins; why don’t they take the campaign to Disarm a la Thaksin and legitimately win the support of this populous (and populist) area? This is a question only a Thai can answer. But, back to the airport.

For eight days the PAD and their supporters occupied both of Thailand’s major airports, relenting only when the Somchailed government was brought down by a constitutional court decision that among other things barred the leadership of the PPP (surrogate for the Thaksin created Thai Rack Thai party, which has been banned since the coup) from serving in government for five years. Now Somchai was not only a Thaksin stooge, but also his brother in law, so it is safe to say that fearless leader was pulling the strings on this quacking marionette, albeit from a distance. But, on with the story. The blockade drives a dagger into the heart of the Thai economy, causes an estimated one million Thais to lose their tourism related jobs, as educated guesses have tourism numbers dropping by 50% over the next year and, once again, crashes the image of Thailand on the world stage. And Sondhi and ilk trumpet this as a victory for Thailand. Yeah. With more such “victories” the country could be, in no time at all, reduced to a pile of rubble, with the true believers standing atop it like dinosaurs fighting for deck chairs on the Titanic.

Only in Thailand could you have two polar opposites such as PAD and PPP and not be able to support either one (I know that people say this about the American presidential race all the time, but The Deems and Reps are not all that opposed when compared to these groups; They certainly don’t lob grenades at each other). It appears to me that both P groups are simply power hungry and one would probably end up being as corrupt as the other. For one thing, there is no system that is corruption proof; America certainly has its share (Ted Stevens, Randy Cunningham; how about Spiro Agnew and the Nixon henchmen?).Thaksin conjures up images of Mayor Richard Daley and the Chicago Machine of the 1960’s.  But can Thailand steer itself away from this road? Unfortunately a real crisis looms with the advancing age of the King. Nobody even wants to think about what calamities are in store once His Majesty passes on. My sense of the whole scenario is that the various power groups are jockeying for position with that eventuality in mind. Thaksin would supplant the monarchy if given the chance. Right now His Royal Highness is the only moral compass in the country with enough clout to influence anybody in the right direction. But, while the Crown is hereditary, this moral authority, so carefully crafted and husbanded by the present King, is not.

So, whither Thailand? Stay Tuned.
18082231441 (US)



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