Sunday, February 26, 2006

TROUBLE IN BANGKOK

The Prime Minister of Thailand, Thaksin Shinawatra, has dissolved parliament and called for new elections.

As a non-Thai speaking foreigner I cannot know all that is going on here. Much of the news I get is filtered through the two English language newspapers. These papers are strongly anti-government. They act as a propaganda machine for the opposition. Every editorial and letter to the editor will reflect this viewpoint. They will never print an opposing opinion. Some of the letters they print I believe are fake, written by their own staff to support their position. All news and headers are strongly slanted. I have the impression that there is little or no integrity within these editorial staffs.

I have read that the Thai language newspapers are also of this persuasion (anti-government) while the TV stations are pro-government.

The main complaint against Thaksin is corruption. (I must report that from my observations, which are purely anecdotal, Thailand is the least corrupt country I have ever been in.)

Prime Minister Thaksin is one of the richest men in Thailand. With vast holdings it was unavoidable that some of his actions could be construed as self-serving, whether they were or not.

The most recent dust-up was caused when his children sold stock in the Shin Corp. and avoided paying taxes on the profits. I understand that it was determined in a court that this was tax avoidance not tax evasion. But the perception of the rich getting richer and using the law to do it is too much for his opponents.

They may have a case. I really don’t know.

I do know that the big attraction for me to Thailand is its stability. The Thai currency (baht) has actually strengthened through this crisis.

There have been demonstrations against the government. I don’t know how strong because the papers here are completely untrustworthy

The papers have repeatedly called for Thaksin to resign.

So now he has called for a new election. And how does The Bangkok Post respond? They say, in an editorial you can read *here*, that a new election is not enough.

What do they want?

I suspect they want a suspension of democracy and themselves, representing the intellectual elite, to be appointed as leaders.

Appointed by whom?

By the mobs of course.

Does this remind you of anything?

Don’t take my word for it. That link to the editorial is only good for a short time so I reprint it completely here:

BANGKOK POST COMMENTWe need a lot more than this
Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra's move to dissolve parliament and call a snap election does not resolve the controversy that has gripped the nation since the tax-free sale of Shin Corp was announced.
Nor does it address the reason for the repeated calls for political reform - the urgent need to restore the checks and balances at the heart and soul of our constitution.
Since the Shin Corp sale, doubts over the prime minister's lack of morals and ethics have widened and deepened. Discontent has grown stronger and louder, prompting even his political mentor, Maj-Gen Chamlong Srimuang, to join other former supporters in the chorus demanding his resignation.
Mr Thaksin yesterday cited a number of reasons for the dissolution - the protesters wanted to topple the government through undemocratic means. And despite all efforts and explanations by himself and government agencies, ''these groups of individuals'' pursued mob rule over the democratic process.
Mr Thaksin also cited the possibility of violence as another reason.
So he is ''returning the power to the people'' as the best way to resolve the current conflict, a decision which has its supporters, especially among the business community.
Politically, of course, Mr Thaksin has his own agenda. By asking the people to decide if he should return to the helm with Thai Rak Thai to form the government, if they do they are happy with his leadership.
Even if Thai Rak Thai returns to power, it does not mean the people only want a leader who can improve their livelihood and economic well-being. Deep down, Thais do care, and want, a leader who not only appreciates the moral and ethical dimensions of leadership, but who lives and breathes it. And the country deserves such a leader. Mr Thaksin should not believe that it's all right just to win the numbers game.
While the leadership issue is important, unfortunately, the whole Shin affair has foreshadowed one crucial shortcoming of the past several years in the constitution even though it is a good charter having gone through exhaustive deliberation before its 1997 promulgation.
It is clear, for example, that the process that allows the opposition to effectively check the prime minister and government's performance must be enhanced. The same applies to the selection process of candidates for seats in independent agencies and improving the qualifications of the selection panellists.
If Mr Thaksin really cares about the country's democratic process, he should pledge during the election campaign to amend the charter so as to bolster the process of checks and balances - no matter whether he is returned to power or not.

1 Comments:

Blogger David said...

While I agree with you that the newspapers are very biased in their reporting, that doesn't mean the protestor's grievances aren't legitimate. Holding an election will not solve the political problems when the electoral process is neither free or fair. Thaksin called the elections because he knows he can win. He has sufficient control of the media and state institutions, as well as bags full of money to ensure this.

February 27, 2006 at 6:48 AM  

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