Same Old Story With A New Set Of Words
Well once more you just have to chuckle, shake your head in disbelief, and utter that time worn phrase, “Welcome to Thailand”. I do not even pretend to understand all the machinations of Thai politics, but the circumstances surrounding the
sudden departure of Samak as PM is the stuff that illustrates that life indeed is stranger than fiction. Punsters are having a field day with the former host of “Tasting and Complaining” (or is it Grumbling?). Whether you refer
to Samak as roasted, stewed, or simply in a pickle, who could have imagined that his “illegal” cooking show could do what weeks of often violent protest failed to do.
And who does the Thai Parliament in its infinite wisdom elect as the 26th Prime Minister? Why Somchai Wongsawat of course! The fact that he is the brother-in-law of Thaksin (aka the “square faced one”) should come as no surprise here in the Land of Smiles. Nepotism is a long standing tradition here. So who cares if Thaksin has an arrest warrant out for him? Apparently the legislators aren’t concerned. I doubt that the average Thai is likely to care one way or another.
As I write this I am enjoying an iced espresso at a coffee shop across from my school. The owner is a very well educated woman whom I have grown to respect as well informed. I asked her what she thought of Mr. Somchai’s appointment. “Well he certainly will do better than Samak. That man couldn’t get along with anyone! But I support the opposition party anyway, so I have no idea what will happen in the future.”
When talking about political unrest in Thailand I am reminded of the last line of Won’t Get Fooled Again by the Who: “Meet the new boss…Same as the old boss.” In the end does it really matter who is running the show here? Since I am not Thai, I can’t begin to speculate what Thais look for in a political party. Certainly the working class wants programs that improve the quality of their lives, such as affordable healthcare. Farmers (still a large segment of the population) want agricultural reforms and of course price supports. Naturally more affluent Thais are not crazy about the idea of higher taxes to pay for all this spending.
Well regardless of who is running the show, money still talks loud, clear, and often. As has been discussed here many times, corruption is so thoroughly ingrained into Thai culture that is difficult to imagine that it is going anywhere in our lifetimes. I once asked a Thai friend if he believed that all politicians are corrupt. His reply says it all: “Do fish swim?” What Thais want to know is that besides the fact he is corrupt, is he any good!
For us poor farangs living here, it really and truly doesn’t make the slightest difference who is running the country. If you are waiting for any Thai government to suddenly say let’s make it easier for foreigners to live here, don’t hold your breathe too long!
Meanwhile on the other side of the planet, the U.S. Presidential race has another seven weeks to run its course. This November will be the first time that I cast an absentee ballot. It will be the first time that my wife, who is a naturalized U.S. citizen, has ever voted. She is not surprisingly a fan of Mr. Obama. “He speaks very well. He has some good ideas and wants to end the war in Iraq”. While I am also planning to vote for Obama, it is with a lot more reservation than my tee-rak. When the Democrats start talking about “CHANGE”, I automatically reach to see if my wallet is still there! The Democratic Party unfortunately is now dominated by a “loony left” contingent (can you spell femi-nazi children?) that has a scary social agenda up their sleeve.
The Republicans are equally scary, having their own lunatics in control of their party. When McCain chose Sara Palin as his running mate, that about clinched Obama as my reluctant choice for President. I don’t mind the fact that she enjoys hunting. Hey I’m no vegetarian. If you eat meat you should be prepared to kill an animal. I don’t care that she is a woman. I don’t even care that she is a Christian, since virtually everyone who has ever been a candidate for Vice President has been one. But her particular brand of Christianity frankly scares the shit out of me. Anyone who actually believes that the Earth is 5000 years old, and that men once walked with dinosaurs is certifiably crazy. Add to that the fact that she advocates the banning of undesirable books from public libraries, and you have yourself one person that I never want to be a heat beat away from the Presidency.
Who will wind up the winner? I wouldn’t want to put money on this race. It is going to be a real nail biter. As for whether it will make a difference who becomes President, you need to consider that as Commander in Chief the President of the United States has at his disposal a military force of unimaginable power. For eight years “Dubyu” has unleashed that force to serve his brand of foreign policy. The results you can judge for yourself. (By the way, for the record, I didn’t vote for the man…..twice!) So even the Thais will be watching to see who will emerge as the next President. If you are an expat American living here in Thailand, whatever your political persuasion, I hope that you will do the right thing and make your voice heard in November.
Yes, today's announcement of the new prime minister is enough to make one scratch their head.
* While I understand the American election means a lot to US citizens in Thailand, that part of the submission is out of place here.