Readers' Submissions

Pom Rak Thaksin

  • Written by Felix
  • September 1st, 2006
  • 9 min read


No, it is not my intention to interfere into the nationwide election campaign. I write these lines because I want to broaden the spectrum of the discussion among us Farangs about the present leadership in this country. This is not a political contribution, it tries to be a sociological analysis.

Most of us are readers of the "Bangkok Post" – the "Nation" is just printed with too dirty ink, while the Post lets you keep relatively clean fingers. The Post is one of the leading newspapers in South East Asia, comparably to the "South China Morning Post" which was under Murdoch the most profitable newspaper of the world. If you open the Bangkok Post you can see black on white that freedom of the press is not an empty word in Thailand. The Post is critical of many aspects of the Thai society. Quite a part of the shocking details in John Burdett's novel "Bangkok 8" are cut and pasted from the Post. (And of course masterfully edited.) <I am very surprised at what you say here. The Nation is usually much more critical of things locally than the Post and of all my Western friends resident in Bangkok, for content, most prefer The NationStick>

In my opinion a major newspaper should not try to undermine the position of the leader of a country. This is not beneficial to social stability.

Every time I see the Post adding the prefix "Caretaker" to the name of Thaksin in a headline I furrow my brows. I assume that as the spring election has been called invalid Thaksin still is as much PM as before. I associate the word "caretaker" with "undertaker". I suspect it is intentional chosen to debase the PM. A much more polite way for the Post to avoid giving Thaksin the full title of PM would have been to call him Dr. Thaksin.

Recently the Post (and other voices) stopped the PM from distributing cattle and land deeds to poor people in the north. In the eyes of the Post it would have been wrong to make the poor richer. Can it be that the newspaper speaks in the worldwide war between the rich and the poor for the interests of the rich? For me this would be incompatible with my professional ethics as a media worker.

I am an inheritor of the French Revolution with its ideals of liberté, egalité, fraternité. In my eyes the stipulation of fraternité (that all men are brothers) is one of the most important concepts the orient can learn from the west. (The students in Tian An Men Square demanded this).

Now – which use the Thai make of their press freedom is not of my concern, what worries me is that us Farangs could be influenced in our opinion on Thaksin by their word slinging.

Do I have any credentials for talking about political leadership in Asia? I just had the luck to meet a couple of Asian leaders person to person, including Zhou Enlai of China, Lee Kuanyew of Singapore or Hun Sen of Kampuchea. Hereby I got a strong personal impression of what kind of men they were. Some were great personalities, for whom I gained the highest respect, others gave me the creeps. What is more, I am able to read Chinese faces, which look to most Farangs inscrutable. How I learned this skill is a long and romantic story, better told another day.

Every time I see Thaksin in TV I have a warm feeling in my heart, and I try to watch him as often as I can <Yeah, and one farang I know says that Osama bin Laden has a warm faceStick>. What is the reason? He looks to me like a brave boy who is surrounded by crocodiles blinking hungrily at him, but he marches undauntedly on, like young Siegfried in the opera of the same name by Wagner on his way to kill the dragon and save the virgin.

Thailand is not the only setting, where we see heroes struggle with dark forces. I visited Singapore in the first year of its independence. It made a desolate impression to me. There was a communist underground movement, connected to their Nanyang University and they had bloody racial troubles. Leading personalities of Singapore whom I interviewed in my capacity as a media man all saw the future of Singapore very bleak. They told me that Singapore needed help from Europe not to go under.

At that time Singapore still was one of the major fleshpots of Asia, (as described in Paul Theroux' novel "Saint Jack"), while Bangkok was famous only for its palaces and Buddhist temples. Farangs in Bangkok at that time advised me that if I wanted to see real nightlife I should move on to Vientiane with its French heritage.

Let us shake the hour glass of time and look at the time present. Singapore has overtaken – without help from Europe – all South East Asian countries and even surpassed some European nations. Thailand is still a sleeping tiger cub sometimes moving its tail.

Why has the development in Thailand and Singapore taken such different paths? Thailand has something in common with Singapore: A highly motivated Chinese business community. But the money these millionaires created in LOS was not input sufficiently enough into the common wealth.

I see two factors which have made Singapore so successful: A strong leader and a disciplined party organisation. The now governing People's Action Party was founded in 1954. In the first election it participated in (1955) they won just 3 seats. In the election this spring they got all the seats in parliament, except three. To have a voice in the destiny of Singapore one has to make a career in the party organisation.

I do not see many Thai MPs who have made a career in the Thai Rak Thai party. How old is it? Just five years. It is unrealistic to expect a party created out of the void to give vital support to a government headed by a young man, much younger than many of his followers. And Thailand does not adhere to a youth cult like the Western Advertising Industry does.

Just imagine: If you had been PM in Bangkok some years ago and then – after Thaksin's takeover – been reduced to just a simple minister under his "Caretaking". Would you believe that the inexperienced young PM was the best possible leader for the country? Would you do everything to further his plans?

Of course this is imaginable, it even is wishable. But how much loyalty can a young man expect from wise old men he has pushed from their thrones in the interest of efficiency? Is efficiency a top superiority in the Thai society? Is ability a competency one politician would concede to another? Regardless of where?

If we look back, parts of the ruling class in Thailand sometimes did not even respect the wishes of His Majesty the King, plotting coup d'etats and establishing unconstitutional military governments.

AIS is a well organized company. That proves that Thaksin has the ability to lead. <These last two sentences make a HUGE assumption and I for one do not see that there is necessarily a connectionStick> But how many of his party friends have the ability to follow his leadership and transfer his visions into social progress?

I have watched western company leaders in action. They all had one thing in common: They were surrounded by highly motivated adjutants, who were eager to help them enforce what they wanted, be it right or wrong. Behind this fealty there stands the hire and fire mentality of capitalism. But the capitalist Thaksin has as PM a problem with hiring and firing.

A really frustrating example: he made or tolerated as Head of the Southern Command a "Law and order"-General who had in the last century been convicted to death because of his participation in a coup d'etat. When this general approved against the order of his superior the killing of rebels who had taken refuge in a mosque, he was not immediately recalled from office. Only when he also justified the suffocation of presumed rebels on military trucks, he was ordered to concentrate his military abilities to a job in Bangkok, where he did or did not plot to assassinate Thaksin.

One of the greatest obstacles to governing this country is that in Thailand sometimes important positions are occupied by incompetent people. Thaksin has not yet succeeded to bring fundamental change to this tradition.

I assume that many leading members of Thai Rak Thai did not join the party because they wanted to be henchmen of Thaksin, but because they were convinced, that their existing influence and power would add prestige to the party. In a young party you cannot expect a structured organization, where all work for the common welfare. You could compare it better to a group of gold-diggers invading California in the nineteenth century. Everyone is more interested in his personal claim than establishing a united leadership.

The Chinese leader Deng Xiao-ping once said: "There can be only one sun in the sky," defending his one-man-only leadership.

Thaksin looks to me like a sun surrounded by bright shining stars (or crocodiles, as I said before). Some people feel irritated which light to follow.

For a reason I do not understand, Asian leaders tend to have an image problem with their spouses. It is said, they can govern a country but not their own household. Mao Tsetung had his wife Jiang Qing who ended in prison. Chiang Kaishek's sweetheart Soong Meiling was a person about whom incredible stories are told. It was the wife of Singapore's PM Lee Hsien Loong who bought Thaksins IT-empire – if I am correctly informed.

The First Lady of Thailand I have never seen nor noticed, so I am not able to say anything about her. Some Thai friends told me that she was more apt in cutting business deals for herself than in playing convincingly the mother of the nation (Nobody would have reason to say this of Hilary Clinton or other First Ladies of the West).

These rumours could well be motivated by the usual money envy in Thailand, but it would be better for Thaksin's position if his wife was as highly respected as Her Majesty the Queen.

In my eyes Thaksin is the best leader Thailand has had in the last sixty years. I wish him luck.

If and by whom a bomb was placed in Thaksin's airplane to Chiang Mai has been pushed under the carpet. If the explosives found in a military truck near his residence could be activated, we will probably not learn before the election. It is dangerous to win a leading position. Not only in Thailand. Siegfried in the opera of Wagner is killed by an envious older politician.

It will be a great challenge to make Thailand governable after the oncoming elections, regardless who wins.

Stickman's thoughts:

I very strongly disagree. I really don't think you provided any evidence or convincing arguments as to why Thaksin is such a good leader.