Echoing the feelings of many on the warren-like streets of Khlong Toei, Chalaem said the poor in Thailand were largely ignored before Thaksin was elected in a landslide in 2001:It seems Thaksin did more for poor rual Thais than buy off their votes. Living in Bangkok where you hear Thaksin's foes constantly harp about how Thaksin won over poor voters by literally paying them to vote for him , one seldom hears mention of those Thaksin policy initiatives such as universal health care that appear to have made a real difference to the lives of poor Thais. Hat tip to Bangkok Pundit who also presents evidence from a BBC report that some residents of Chang Mai may be fearful to admit that they supported Thaksin in the past. The same might be asked of Bangkok residents I surveyed for my "River Poll" (see below). I had not expected to find quite such overwhelming support for the coup d'etat in Bangkok -- 90 percent (admitedly, it was a very small sample, but still 18/20 is very high). At the time I did not suspect fear was a significant factor in the minds of my own poll respondants, especially as I took care to speak to each respondant individually, out of earshot of others. However, I suppose one cannot completely rule out that possibility.
A billionaire tycoon who became the hero of the underclass, Thaksin ushered in universal health care that allowed Chalaem's cancer-stricken daughter to receive chemotherapy for less than $1 per treatment. His war on drugs, she said, drove the methamphetamine dealers from the streets. Local leaders from Thaksin's party provided free milk for her young grandson and brought the struggling widow gifts of rice several times a year.
"I don't care what they say about Thaksin, he was the first one who ever cared about us," she said. "He gave me a chance to keep my daughter alive. ... Now that he's been chased out, the poor have lost their closest friend."
Friday, September 29, 2006
Washington Post reporter Anthony Faiola was in Chang Mai on the weekend -- Thaksin's home town in the north of Thailand:
Posted by Jotman on Friday, September 29, 2006