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THIS IS THAILAND
A Week in Review: October 9-15, 2010



Follow the paper trail...

Bad people pay poor people to commit acts of terror. Committing acts of terror makes the poor people sad. The poor people ask the government for handouts. The government gives the poor people handouts but won’t pay them a decent wage. The lowly-paid people are easily recruited by bad people. Read more here…

It emerged last week that a close associate of Phuea Thai M.P. for Phayao, Wisut Chai-narun, had been implicated in the transfer of 50,000 baht to one of the two surviving suspects of the bomb gang responsible for the explosion that killed 4 and injured 9 in Nonthaburi on October 5. Wasa Theprin was apprehended by police at Wisut’s home in Phayao, where she had gone into hiding.

While Wisut denied involvement in the deal, he admitted that he knew that Wasa had been asked by a mystery man to transfer the money in return for a fee of 500 baht. However, Wisut refused to name the man to reporters, although if he follows the same stance with police, he is surely guilty of withholding evidence.

Wisut had previously been blacklisted by the Center for the Resolution of the Emergency Situation (CRES) during the clampdown on individuals and organisations providing financial aid to the red shirts during their increasingly violent siege of Bangkok earlier this year. However, he was later removed from the list for lack of evidence.

Thousands of the red shirts who took part in that siege are now experiencing emotional and mental strain, it was revealed last week. A report by the Truth for Reconciliation Commission (TRC), which was set up by the government in the aftermath of the doomed occupation of Bangkok, showed that many red shirt supporters are experiencing mental conditions, anxiety and paranoia, depression, suicidal tendencies, post-traumatic stress and a variety of other psychological complaints.

There were no figures available for the amount of stress or related symptoms suffered by the security forces responsible for protecting millions of civilians from the red shirt aggressors, nor were there figures for the millions of innocent civilians who suffered in silence during and since the red shirt’s ill-advised siege.

Perhaps the most telling statistic to come out of the TRC’s report was that the government has paid out a total of 100 million baht in compensation to 1,766 red shirts in the aftermath of their violent occupation of Bangkok.

Unfortunately, Thailand’s poor became conditioned under Thaksin’s rule to look for handouts rather than make long-term investments in improving their lot. It is a classic case of giving a man a fish instead of teaching him how to fish.

Although none of the constant procession of speakers during the red shirt siege of Bangkok offered any constructive solutions to the plight of the red shirts, Thaksin’s mass support amongst Thailand’s poor was won through the implementation and promise of a number of populist policies. While many of those policies were impractical short-term vote-winners, some – like the One Tambon, One Product campaign – offered genuine hope.

One policy that Thaksin proposed during his tenure was the implementation of a 300 baht per day minimum wage in Thailand. It is ironic that Prime Minister Abhisit was criticised as populist last week when he proposed a 250 baht per day minimum wage during a tripartite meeting of employers, employees and the government.

Although a final decision on the increase was delayed, Abhisit’s proposal is unlikely to be approved. The current minimum wage in Bangkok is 206 baht a day (A DAY!!!), while in the provinces it can be as low as 151 baht.

Representing the employees, Wilaiwan sae Tia of the Thai Labour Solidarity Committee said that she wanted to see the minimum daily wage rise to 421 baht, but admitted that it was impossible, so supported Abhisit’s proposal of 250 baht, but thought it was unlikely, so would accept the increase of 10 baht proposed by the employers. My guess is that Wilaiawan has never been trained in the art of negotiation.

With such a large supply of cheap labour, it is clearly a buyer’s market, giving the employers the upper hand. Justifying their derisory offer of no more than a 10 baht per day increase, the employers warned of the potential loss of jobs for poor workers if they have to pay such excessive rates.

If any employer is unable to pay each person they hire at least 250 baht per day, then they seriously need to face the fact that their own business acumen is inadequate and that their business model is flawed.

Would it really be so populist of the government to insist on a minimum wage of 250, 300 or even 400 baht per day? Even if the government supported part of this increase through subsidies for the first year, the benefits would be exponential. While unviable businesses may be forced to close, the economy would be stimulated, the standard of living would rise amongst the poor, and the ease with which unscrupulous individuals could hire mobs would decrease.

Maybe I am being too idealistic. Can somebody please tell me why I am wrong?

Paul Snowdon – October 16, 2010

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Have your say...

Punam
28 Nov 2015, 04:13
Not sure about Kasikorn but other Thai banks are slow and expensive to dpsoeit a foreign currency check. The option of mailing it to your U.S. bank (assuming you have one) is valid, although a bit slow (two weeks on average) and risk of the mail being lost. Another option is to us a U.S. bank that offers remote dpsoeit usually using an iphone or android app.
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