What’s going on in Thailand?

December 15, 2013

There’s battle lines being drawn
Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong

For What It’s Worth , Buffalo Springfield

(Suggestion: Click on the song link and listen to it while reading)

Thai politics is a confusing world, and the stuff going on nowadays, protests, calls for the overthrow of the government, dissolving parliament, new elections. Is this the place we really want to retire to and settle down in?

As our readers know I do not hold any political stance. As I have said “My opinion about politics in Thailand is that I have no opinion.”, publicly that is.  But with all that is going on politically I thought maybe a little background might help those who have no idea what is going on here.

So, for what it’s worth, here is my take.

Both sides of the present political argument (pro government – call them Red Shirts, and anti government – call them Yellow Shirts) have lots and lots of negative things to say about the other.  The pro-government Red Shirts say they should remain in power because they have been “democratically elected”, and the anti government Yellow Shirts have never really spoken about how they would do things differently except that the current government needs to go. So if you are looking for a reason to back one or the other side, the “pro” arguments are not exactly enlightening.

But on the “con” side, or why we should not back a certain side, we have lots of opinions. Without a lot of stated reasons why anyone should back one of the sides, instead let’s discuss why either side should NOT lead Thailand into the future.

Note: These are NOT my opinions. Remember, I have no opinion. These are allegations I have heard from one side against the other. So I would take each with a large grain of salt.

Argument against the government

  1. The present prime minister is Yingluck Shinawatra, younger sister of the coup-deposed prime minister Taksin. Taksin is living in “self imposed” exile unable to return to Thailand unless he wants to serve a 2 year prison sentence. He was convicted during the time the military who had overthrown him was in power, which many on the government side question as being unfair. The opposition says that Yingluck is really just a Taksin puppet, and that he is pulling the strings from Dubai.
  2. The present government attempted to pass a blanket amnesty law which would allow Taksin to return a free man (but also giving amnesty to those on the other side accused of the killing of Red Shirt protesters). Although this was one of the main reasons to begin protesting, the law was voted down in parliament.
  3. Lots of ill-conceived laws have been passed, paying too high a subsidy to farmers for their rice, borrowing for high speed trains, a tablet for every student, inability to mitigate the annual flooding, continued unrest in the south, etc.
  4. The claim that the present government is utterly corrupt.
  5. The election that brought the present government into power was bought and that the people were paid for their votes.
  6. The Red Shirts did great damage to the country during their demonstrations when the city was brought to a standstill and many buildings were burnt down. This led to the loss of many billions of baht.
  7. The people who support the government only do so for what they can get from it and that they are poor, uneducated, and ignorant, and are not ready for true democracy.
  8. If new elections were held the present government would win because they would buy their votes.

Argument against the anti-government protesters

  1. The leaders of the protest have also had many run-ins with the law and have been accused of the same corruption as the present government. The former Yellow Shirt prime minister and deputy prime minister (the one leading the present protests) have also been accused of murder.
  2. The party leading the protest has not been elected into power in decades and every time an election has been held they have lost and the Taksin backing party has been elected, often in landslides, indicating that the “people” do not support them.
  3. The protesters have never said how they would do things differently.
  4. The party of the protesters has also used vote buying.
  5. The people supporting the party of protests are mainly from Bangkok and the south and are the well off and more affluent.
  6. The Yellow Shirts did great damage to the country during their demonstrations when the airports where shut down and later when at least 90 people were unlawfully killed. This led to the loss of many billions of baht.
  7. The protesters have stated that they would put a small group of people (People’s Council) into power who would make laws for the people and that they would know what is best for them.
  8. If new elections were held the present government would win because the majority supports them.

Some things to consider:

  1. Thailand has had 19 coups since becoming a “democracy”. Many of these coups have been very bloody.
  2. Most of the past governments have been noted for their corruption.
  3. The claim of vote buying has been around for each and every election.
  4. The Thai governments have sometimes been run by an elected parliament and sometimes by a small group of individuals.
  5. This is not the first time that the claim that the “Thais are not ready for democracy” has been used.
  6. Amnesty for deposed leaders, sometimes for conduct that led to many deaths, has occurred often in the past and was usually seen as a means to stabilize the political situation.
  7. “Minority-rule” would be nothing new to Thailand but ironically it is the party calling itself “Democrat” that is advocating it.

The more things change the more they seem to remain the same.

The main thing for us foreigners trying to live here during these unstable times is that nothing so far has made life here very different for us. Their political turmoil has rarely affected us. Each government in turn, democratically elected, military dictatorship, interim caretaker, has always welcomed us.

I know. I have lived under them all (If you turn on the TV and all you get is martial and patriotic music then you know that a coup has taken place – just wait for a big-wig to come on and let you know that what they are doing is to restore democracy.)  But through it all the Thai welcome mat has always been unrolled for us.

Will you be happy living under this or that government system? Only you can answer for yourself. For me, it has never seemed to make any difference – I have heard the martial music a number of times already but I am still here.

My prayers and best wished are for Thailand and its wonderful people to come out on the other side of these problems happy, safe, and secure, and just as warm and welcoming as always.

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