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A Week in Review: April 23-29, 2011

Thaksin outlines his plan during a phone-in

In a week when Thailand sort of went to war a bit with Cambodia again, Thaksin Shinawatra offered himself an amnesty, while the New Politics Party disobeyed the wishes of its members and said that it would try to win the next election. Confused? Welcome to This is Thailand…  

The big news in Thailand last week was the resumption of hostilities between Thailand and Cambodia. Yet despite the tragic deaths, injuries and displacements caused by this senseless border dispute, the real threat to Thailand’s apparently fragile sovereignty comes from within.

Speaking to his loyal minions via video link from his secret hideout, Thailand’s fugitive former prime minister made it clear who was in charge when he outlined the details of his evil plan to escape justice and turn Thailand into his own personal fiefdom under the banner: “Thaksin thinks; Phuea Thai does”.

The plan may have been half-heartedly disguised as a manifesto of Thaksin’s personal political party, Phuea Thai, but make no mistake about it – despite the populist policies that have become Thaksin’s trademark – the only person that the plan is designed to benefit is Thaksin himself.

Thaksin began his monologue by announcing that he was ready to return home and serve the people of Thailand – although apparently not ready to serve his 2-year jail term. But if Phuea Thai wins the election and brings its boss back home, can Thailand really afford to be “served” Thaksin-style again?

Having already bought the loyalty of many rural North and North-eastern Thais, Thaksin is clever enough to know that Bangkok voters may have turned against him, but that they have short memories. As such, he hopes that a list of populist policies will win them over again, just as they did in 2001.

In fact, Thaksin went to great lengths to justify some of his previous populist policies. He talked about the 30 baht health care plan (which nearly bankrupted many hospitals), the war on drugs (which resulted in 2,500 extra judicial killings), and the village fund (which was categorically NOT an election bribe and which villagers used to escape poverty by buying mobile phones and signing up to the service coincidentally provided by Thaksin’s telecom company that he would later sell to the Singaporean government after he had used his power as prime minister to change the law so that such a sale could take place).

And then Thaksin brought out the big guns and talked about new mega projects to equal the stunning success of his previous white elephants, such as Suvarnabhumi Airport and its Rail Link. Thaksin promised to turn Suvarnabhumi into a travel hub (this time, I mean, not last time – although he did also make this same promise last time).

And just as Thaksin had promised during a previous election campaign to solve Bangkok’s traffic problems within 6 months, this time he was vowing to eradicate poverty within 4 years.

But like any great illusionist, Thaksin was saving his best until last. After buttering everyone up for the best part of two hours, he ever so casually mentioned that he would graciously offer an amnesty to anyone that he felt had suffered an injustice since the 2006 coup that removed him from office.

By the purest of industrial-strength coincidences, this amnesty period goes back just far enough to cover his own conviction for abuse of power.

And if there were any lingering doubts that democracy is anything more to Thaksin than a flag of convenience, consider the fate of those Phuea Thai politicians who have dared to question his authority.

Increasingly frustrated at the direction Phuea Thai is taking as Thaksin’s personal vehicle rather than a genuine political party, a number of Phuea Thai MPs are known to have been considering jumping ship and following former Phuea Thai Chairman Chavalit Yongchaiyudh to form a new party.

Having already shown his ruthless streak against those who challenge or threaten his complete control, Thaksin acted swiftly to punish the rebel MPs by removing them from the party list.

And with an election expected to be less than 2 months away, Thaksin still refuses to name a party leader for fear that his own power will be diluted and the interests of Thailand and its people will be placed before his own.

Meanwhile, the New Politics Party (NPP) was demonstrating its own interpretation of democracy. Members of the political wing of the yellow shirts voted by a majority of 3-1 not to field any candidates in the next election and to support the yellow shirts’ “no vote” campaign.

However, the decision was overturned just a few days later by NPP leader Somsak Kosaisuk, who dispelled any misconceptions anybody may have had about democracy within the party by stating that the right to make decisions rested with the party’s executive board and not the party’s members.

The NPP now risks a backlash from the yellow shirts, who have threatened to withdraw their support for the political party they created if it disobeys their orders to field a candidate in the election because they feel that Thai politics is ‘shady’.

Well, they got that one right at least.

Paul Snowdon – April 30, 2011

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Have your say...

Ditsa Wong
30 Apr 2011, 04:50
Normally I was not colour on myself but I think he could not win the election because Most of Thai people were respect new one for improve our country and improve our government also >>
Pls let's see who will next one , I hope to be better than this Taksin and this government >>
Ditsa W
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