Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Implications of the crisis in Thailand

Long-term, what does the crisis in Thailand mean for the Thai people and the international community?

Thailand was the first, and has long been a relatively stable democracy in Southeast Asia. The particular tragedy of the present impasse is that Thailand has had so much going for it.

The divisions within Thai society appear deep, and they are regional.

In Bangkok, you have an educated elite -- doctors, civil servants, and professionals -- questioning whether real democracy is the best path forward for their country. A surprising number of Thais will tell you "Western-style" democracy is not their ideal system.

Whenever a sizable -- and the most literate -- portion of the population in a free and democratic country in a major world region turns its back on the fundamental tenants of democracy -- one person one vote, proportional representation -- it sends a signal. Such a signal is liable to be heard around the world. Conceivably, the discontent of the Thai middle class will prove indicative of a broader trend in the developing world. Echoes of Thailand may well be perceived in nearby China, and as far away as Bolivia.

Meanwhile, inhabitants of regions that risk being disenfranchised by the Bangkok elite -- that is, Thais living in the North and Northeast -- have grown richer and politically stronger than ever before in living memory. One doubts the periphery will sit back and simply allow the center take away what the periphery has won for itself.

Not without a struggle. Not now that that almost the entire Thai countryside enjoys access to television, radio, newspapers, and the Internet. Today, the Thai electorate is positioned to figure out for themselves what is really going on. Farmers will ask how a group of protesters was allowed to shut down the country's air transportation system and occupy (and vandalize) Government House, seemingly without any serious repercussions. And they will ask how it was that military and later a court was able to overturn an election. And they will ask why Bangkok twice turned a national icon and their hero into a fugitive.

What is clear is that the elite has provided no popular narrative to defend and explain their actions to Thais outside their own tight circle. The elite tells no story that could possibly be palatable to the rural masses. To the contrary, the center tells the periphery that they are too stupid to vote, too hopelessly corrupt to lead, and too backward to learn. It is not a marketable narrative. Such talk cannot hold a country together.

Now the entire weigh of Thai national unity hangs on a few golden threads. And these threads are worn with age.

This jot began as a response to a question from Jotman reader J-P.


  1. well summarised... thanks

  2. it is entirely conceivable that the discontent of the Thai middle class could prove indicative of a broader trend in the developing world. Echoes of Thailand might well be perceived in nearby China, and as far away as Bolivia

    Thank you.

    Many have long maintained that western style "democracy" is nothing more than a sham at best and very destructive at worst.

    America is the worst offender in this respect for Americans equate "democracy" with their particular brand of capitalism which can accurately be called "extremist-capitalism".

    Many believe this incorrect association is corrupt to it's very core. Capitalism is an economic theory and democracy is a political theory. Many agree that the two are fundamentally mutually exclusive. Many also agree that democracy is nothing more than the tyranny of the majority.

    Many agree that the true definition of fascism is that which Benito Mussolini himself described as the melding of the interests of the state with the interests of the corporation.

    The "democracy" that Americans labor under is controlled by the corporations through a legal frame work called juristic persons. That framework results in one dollar one vote. Therefore it is anything but democratic. Rather it is oligarchic.

    The American model is quite literally bankrupt on every possible level.

    The American Treasury has printed, or more correctly, created, $7.8 Trillion since September. Since September America has increased its money supply more than 341%! An astounding figure that represents 60% of its GDP. An unsustainable and foolhardy undertaking as it can only lead to Treasury default and hyperinflation.

    Many people around the world have begun to resoundingly and loudly reject the western model of democracy in general and the American model in particular.

    They have witnessed America's abject cultural and economic failure and reject it. As they should!

    You mentioned Bolivia as one example. One only need look at those countries that America is attacking with its CIA and in it's press to understand the others America fears the most.

    A group in America called PNAC (Project for a New America Century), a neo-con group who's adherents infest the highest offices in the land, are hell bent on American hegemony. PNAC adherents have done much and will do more to destabilize and divide the planet than any anti-western-democracy movement may.

    Thankfully the neo-cons who have urinated in their rice bowl are now on the wane culturally and economically. Soon their bankrupt ideas and policies will implode upon them and once and for all remove the biggest threat to peace the world has seen other than the christian church.

    That's the good news.

    The bad news is that they are dragging the rest of the planet down with them.

  3. I live in the Northeast: Farmers aren't asking WTF, they know. But remember the adage: "All politics is local." I find local people finding their political legs by meeting to talk over what local politicians are doing for them here, rather than planning a march on Bangkok. In Northeastern cities, you will find People Against Democracy, but village people largely ignore them because they're not messing in local affairs. Another thing working for villagers, and neighborhoods in the cites, is that economic self-sufficiency seems to be working, as well as fostering democratic consensus. Also, the economic downturn makes it less likely the elite will try to impose ruinous schemes on the countryside as they've done in the past. I see PAD making themselves irrelevant.

  4. Never be deceived that the rich will allow you to vote away their wealth.
    ~ Lucy Parsons

  5. If pigs could vote, the man with the slop bucket would be elected swineherd every time, no matter how much slaughtering he did on the side.
    ~ Orson Scott Card

  6. When great changes occur in history, when great principles are involved, as a rule the majority are wrong.
    ~ Eugene V. Debs

  7. Fascism is capitalism in decay.
    ~ Vladimir Ilyich Lenin

  8. “Freedom and equality are sworn and everlasting enemies, and when one prevails the other dies.”

  9. "Thailand was the first, and has long been a relatively stable democracy in Southeast Asia... "

    you are kidding, right ?

    Thailand - a Democracy ? when ? :)

    by constitution (well, all of them - 18 so far) it is a Constitutional Monarchy. by fact - mostly it has been a dictatorship to bigger or lesser degree. those very few times when it had civilian / elected governments - there was still a very strong influence from army and elite.

    now, with so called "Democrats" finally in power, most likely the "New Politics" will be started in some or other form (either in disguise or in open).

    already army boss Anupong has said that army will send soldiers to NE to "talk" to people there .... (see BP's post)


  10. Anonymous,

    My is a relative one, and relative to other countries in the region, Thailand has been more democratic over a longer period of time than anywhere else I can think of.

    Malaysia? No. Sing? No way. Indo? Nope. Viet? No. Philippines? Probably not. Burma? Ha!


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