The election is over. The dust has settled and Thailand has turned the clock back 18 months, to a time of fraction and division between the pro and anti-Thaksin camps. The military coup achieved nothing, except to put the conflict on hold for a while.
Squarehead will return, and it is a near certainty that demonstrators will return to the streets. Who knows if the army will react, and how.
An overlooked fact is that, when the coup occurred in September 2006, it was made known that His Majesty supported the action and the ridding of the country of Thaksin. Now the country has, in effect, voted for the return of Thaksin. Doesn't that suggest that the people do not really care what His Majesty thinks. An interesting development.
It is also interesting that the tainted PPP (the new name for Thaksin's banned Thai Rak Thai party) is preferred over the seemingly honest Democratic Party leader. But that only follows the trend in South Korea and South Africa, who have recently elected officials accused of corruption as President and Party Leader respectively. Samak is also, of course, under investigation for corruption over the purchase of fire trucks while he was Bangkok governor. That doesn’t matter to the Thais of course, for whom corruption is just a normal part of everyday life.
What is clear is that the country is still as divided as it was 18 months ago. What is frightening, really frightening, this time is that the leader of the PPP was, according to a Time magazine article linked to by Stickman in his Sunday column (link here), the deputy prime minister at the time of the infamous May 1992 crackdown in which protesters were gunned down in the street and many others disappeared. His comment at the time was that the demonstrators were troublemakers and communists, and that it was acceptable for the government to shoot them. That is the new leader of Thailand, gentlemen. If, as we might expect, protestors take to the streets again when Thaksin returns, what will Prime Minister Samak’s reaction be this time?
We live in interesting times, and need to take cover.
A further thought is that the election has demonstrated perfectly the 'elite's' policy of keeping most of the population under-educated, dumbed down.
How many who voted for PPP knew they were voting for a leader who thinks it is perfectly okay to shoot Thai citizens who don't agree with him and protests his policies? Next time there are protests, and there will be with the country still bitterly divided, then it might be members of their own family who could be gunned down. I raised this point with my wife, who just said I was being fussy. She wanted PPP to win, no matter what, even if it meant voting for a thug.
It reflects that Thai people cannot see what is not in front of their eyes. If it isn’t obvious then it cannot be perceived. They have been brainwashed to not question what they see or are told, or to think things through to the next step, to consider the consequences of what they see or do. Only now counts. Not the past, and not the future. It takes foreign observers and writers to reveal the true picture, but most Thais have no interest in reality, only illusion.
How will it affect us expats? Well, it was under the soon-to-return Thaksin that an increasing number of anti-foreigner rules were brought in. Visa restrictions, meant to get rid of a few undesirables, instead covered everyone regardless of their status. How much further they want to go is anyone's guess, but one thing I believe we can be sure of is that their policies regarding foreigners will not be reversed. While some neighbouring countries are increasingly opening up and offering opportunities to foreigners, Thailand will continue to go in the opposite direction.
I read that Thailand has had the lowest growth rate of ANY Asian country this year, and the only certainty is that the country will continue to struggle with the internal divisions it is suffering. Prices will continue to rise at an alarming rate. Several of the products I buy have leapt in price. Examples – four yogurts from 38 baht to 50, a couple of bread rolls a massive increase from 10 to 16 in one week. A friend has just toured Cambodia, and found people spoke the international language of English far better than they do in Thailand. In Cambodia, for heavens sake! Once they get their act together, along with Vietnam, those countries will leave Thailand in the dust, like Malaysia and Singapore have already done.
How Thailand becoming more and more of an economic and political backwater will affect us can only be a matter of speculation. But it is unlikely to be positive. Hopefully, when I move to my country retreat I'll be able to do what the Thais do. Pretend everything is fine and just watch the rice grow. But if you're young enough to be in business, then I'd feel I was walking on quicksand.
A really excellent summary of things. I very much agree that the near future is full of uncertainty… Anyone want to place a wager on when the next coup will be?