Archive for the ‘Election’ Category

At the end of the presentations organized by Foreign Correspondence Club on the Resurgence of Thaksin and the Future of Thailand, one of the journalists raised the question, ‘what gives the yellow shirts the rights to disregard election results.’ My reading of his intention was the legitimacy of democratic process implying that if you seek to get rid of a government from the majority, you are disregarding the democratic process. People can’t just ignore the election outcome just because they are not in favor. As a Thai, it is difficult to deny elements within the country that are road blocks to democracy such as corruption, the role of the military, the elites etc. It is also essential to acknowledge the growing gap between the wealthy few and the poor majority. These are issues that need to be addressed as effectively as possible. However there are other concerns as well that came to mind as I sat and listen to questions being raised pertaining to the current election within Thailand. It seems that there is a danger in confusing capitalism with democracy. It seems as well that economic growth is not equal to progress toward democracy. Democracy is not just a constitution. It is a state of being, the collective psyche of the nation. It is a sense of emotional maturity that comes with contentment. It is the ability to acknowledge differences and live with disagreement, the willingness to compromise and the courage to live with things when they do not go the way we want it to go without being taken advantage off. It is not a policy that can be implemented. It is about people and what they hold within their hearts. You can’t create democracy. You create people with a sense of security and maturity. You can’t go ahead of them either. They need to move at their own pace. It seems that the process of democracy is the everyday things we do in little things we engage in to help people around us gather a sense of security and maturity. To know that disagreement does not take away a sense of value. And this is where I think we need to be careful because, philosophically, capitalistic materialism strives to prove superiority of one over the others. While it is difficult to hold back the force of capitalism, it is important to regulate. The US, while viewing herself as the champion of democracy, has witnessed the force of unregulated capitalism generating a deep sense of insecurity. We have seen our tax money being spent rescuing financial institutions that took high risk for its gain. And those with big capitals continue to gain while unemployment increases and the average Americans suffer. I sometime wonder if we, in the US, really have the freedom we think rightly belongs to us? It seems to me the challenge of democracy in Thailand is not who gets the most votes, who is elected, who runs the country, how to stimulate economic growth. It seems to me, the challenge of democracy in Thailand is a sense of security not in what they have but who they are, not in their productivity but in the potential for mutual respect, not in action derived from a sense of inadequacy but in action that comes from contentment. I suspect democracy is rooted in a system that does not need more in order to be adequate.

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No ‘people power’ crusade, this

Published: 14/04/2009 at 12:00 AM
Newspaper section: News

At the time of writing, I have no idea how the Thai political turmoil will play out. I cannot help feeling, however, as if I were watching the same movie all over again, a repeat of the build-up to the Sept 19, 2006 coup to an unfolding anarchy, a social melee mistaken for a “people’s power” crusade.


Protesters force their way past soldiers through a shattered glass pane into the venue of the 14th Asean Summit in Pattaya on Saturday.

I have never agreed with the Sept 19 coup and never will. On the one hand, that political farce was an attempt to prolong the grip on power of some elite and military figures. On the other, it was a compromise with immoral capitalism from which the hideous beast of corruption had spawned and is threatening to eat up the whole Thai society.

The ludicrous coup only broke the snake’s spine. Now the wounded and vengeful serpent is returning to bite back its attackers, whom it has lumped together as Amartaya Thipatai (governance by the ruling elite or mandarins).

In the end, the half-hearted, half-baked coup ended up becoming the prisoner for democracy lovers to stone. What a pathetic end for these outdated knights on metal tanks! They should have gone back to their barracks following the May uprising in 1992.

I wonder what would have happened had there been no coup? How would Thaksin Shinawatra, the prime minister at that time, have treated the people who eventually rose up to oppose him? After all, the Oct 7, 2008-style brutal tear-gassing could have happened in his term, which had seen the cold-blooded massacre of Muslim insurgents and protesters at Krue Se and Tak Bai, as well as the blatant murder of thousands in the name of the war on drugs.

Had the Thai public been given a taste of fighting the capitalist dictator by themselves without the help of military tanks, they might have seen the true face of the political charlatan already.

But the coup-makers had an illusion that they could save the day and rolled out the tanks – they were as clueless as likay performers who believe in the make-believe grandeur – only to stumble by their own impotence, get caught by the villain, put in manacles and paraded around town as the elitist thieves who’d stolen democracy. The crook who had plundered treasure from the nation, from our state enterprises, thus managed to reinvent himself as the democratic hero, as a saint who will come down and free the masses from the chains of poverty.


Bangkok Senator Rosana Tositrakul.

I respect people who fight for a society of their ideals. However, the years of working in civil society movements have taught me to trust only the power of our own hands and brains. I have learned to never hope for a hero who will lift us up from scarcity and hardship overnight. For that reason, I think the man who said: “If I could become a prime minister, there would be no poor person within this year,” is more likely a demagogue than a democrat.

Isn’t this demagogue who is haunting us via video-link the same man who shamefully deceived Bangkok people that he would solve the traffic problem in six months? Isn’t he the same man who declared a war on poverty but doubled Thai people’s debt after five years of managing the country? While enriching himself to the tune of a hundred billion? Isn’t he the same man who was sued for issuing a dud cheque for one million baht 20 years ago?

Isn’t this demagogue the same man who promised the whole country he would revoke the 11 laws issued by the previous government?

Who instead used those same laws renamed as State Enterprise Corporatisation Act to sell the Petroleum Authority of Thailand (now PTT Plc) at a bargain price?

Who was also trying to sell the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand?

Who stands to gain from privatisation? If not the politicians, capitalists and their cronies, then who?

And who are the losers? If not the taxi drivers, motorcycle taxis and grassroots people currently mesmerised by this saint who appears via video-link?

I can’t help but wonder what would it be like if this self-styled god of the poor received an amnesty and returned to the seat of power at the Thai Khu Fah Building (Government House)?

How would that change the face of Thai politics?

– Would the so-called Amartaya Thipatai disappear?

– Would at least three privy councillors resign?

– Would the executive branch become absolutely stable as there’d be little or no opposition?

– The Prime Minister would come from one family and stay for at least 20 years? He would govern the country in CEO-style, as if this were a Thailand Plc? There would be no poor in this country/company in 2010?

All this is probably in the demagogue’s imagination. The question is: Do we share or want to be a part of it?

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Watching election campaign and listening to speeches and debates make me think hard of the meaning of leadership.  What does it mean to lead?  What does it mean to be a qualified leader?  I can’t help but be reminded of a quote by Lao Tzu on the meaning of leadership which is to lead without leading.  Is leadership all about the leader and his or her ability or is it about the people?  Should the aim of leadership be “to become more and more important for the country” or should one become less and less important to the point where everything is going smoothly and the leader is contented with being insignificant?  Is it the vision of the leader that matters or the vision of the people that counts?  Here is what Lao Tzu has to say about leadership.  I particularly love the last part “We did this ourselves.” 

“A leader is best
When people barely know that
he exists,
Not so good when people obey and
acclaim him,
Worst when they despise him.
Fail to honor people,
they fail to honor you;
But of a good leader, who talks little,
When his work is done,
his aim fulfilled,
They will say
We did this ourselves.”

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