Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Thais speak out on the political crisis

It was largely the rural poor who first elected Thaksin, and the now support the besieged Thai government of PM Somchai. Missing from a number of Thai media accounts of the protests in Bangkok is the perspective of the rural poor. Bloomberg's Daniel Ten Kate provides both urban and rural perspectives on the anti-government protests. A resident of Bangkok tells the reporter:
``So many people in the northeast are uneducated and just take money for their votes,'' said Maytham Thamthanakorn, a 30- year-old construction-materials executive, at a recent People's Alliance rally in Bangkok. ``We need to educate them.''
This is what you often hear in Bangkok, whenever the legacy of Thaksin comes up in conversation: that Thaksin bought off the poor voters. From Bangkok-based Thai media, it is unusual to hear the rural response to this charge. The article continues:

Farmers in the northeast, who stay abreast of current events at night via cable television, dismiss any notion that their votes are for sale.

``The Bangkok protesters have a bad impression of the northeast, but they never come to see for themselves what it's like,'' said Angkana Duangaew, 32, as she herded buffalo through a muddy, fly-filled pasture in Udon Thani. ``Poor people were very happy under Thaksin.''

The issue Thailand's rural residents seem to appreciate most about the Thaksin era -- which the current government promises to continue -- was that he made medical care affordable:

For many in the fifth-poorest of Thailand's 76 provinces, Thaksin's greatest legacy was a health-care program that cut the price of each hospital visit to 30 baht (87 cents).

``Many people tried to borrow money from neighbors when they got sick or they just stayed home,'' said Buanna Sodsong, 44, who works as a maid. ``Now if someone gets sick, they just go to the hospital.''

1 comment:

  1. I'm Thai and I live here (Isaan). There is no cable here. Maybe he meant satellite TV. Many chao baan have the free service from True.

    Anyway, the 30 baht health plan is popular but also sort of a joke now even with chao baan. In the beginning it was promoted with the slogan "treatment for every disease" but now it is known as "paracetamol for every disease" - they just give you aspirin and send you home. But it is (almost) free and people like that, even if they don't do much for you.


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