Faith, Hope and Charity
In two days time (Feb 26) the Supreme Court of Thailand will make judgement on the seized 76 billion baht (US$2.3 billion) of assets belonging to Thaksin Shinawatra and his family. The prosecution allege Thaksin accumulated his wealth by abusing his powers when Prime Minister of the country and Thaksin’s legal team will counter the prosecution with 16 key rebuttals (view Bangkok Post) and the fact the former Thai Rak Thai leader was a very wealthy man before he entered the political scene. A lot more than money is dependant on the outcome of the case, possibly the fragile stability of the country itself.
Thaksin now living in self exile in Dubai after being found guilty of corruption charges has the backing of his loyal band of mainly north and north eastern red shirt supporters. Whichever way Friday’s verdict goes red shirt leaders are hoping up to one million of their followers will converge on Bangkok next week and force the present government to step down and a new election to take place.
The red shirt rally will also try to force Thaksin’s two year prison sentence to be overturned thus allowing him a safe return to the country. A large part of the red shirt followers are poor rural people who live on as little as 200 US dollars a month, and so why would so many with so little travel hundreds of miles to give their support for a man who has wealth way beyond their wildest dreams irrespective of the Supreme Court’s verdict. Perhaps it’s blind faith, hope and charity.
Thaksin Shinawatra is the only Thai prime minister to win back to back elections with the latter victory coming to an end in the 2006 military coup and it was this incident which has made the country’s rural poor feel cheated to this day. The People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) siege of Suvarnabhumi International Airport in 2008 (photo right) which eventually led to the fall of the People Power Party (formerly Thai Rak Thai) was the final straw that broke the buffalo’s back.
The country people of Isaan and northern Thailand still hold faith in a third Thaksin government distributing a fairer proportion of the countries spending into the coffers of the rural districts. Do they forget despite Thaksin being Prime Minister of Thailand from 2001 to 2006 the minimum wage in many Thai provinces nowadays is barely over 160 baht per day. Even the red shirts saviour could hardly force the wage scale too far northwards.
The country villagers hopes of a return to Thaksinomics and the carrots which go with it are another reason for boarding the free coaches laid on to ferry the red shirts from Isaan’s cities to Bangkok for what they hope to be an ad hoc last tango in the Big Mango. Cheap interest bank loans to farmers and villages, a 30 baht health scheme and housing for the poor were the key carrots in Thaksin’s pro-poor policies dangled to lure the common peoples vote. The red shirts will be hoping the future brings more of the same.
Free coach rides to the country’s capital and red shirt concert rallies wrapped in propaganda can hardly be described as charity, but they do offer an alternate to the sometime monotony of village life on limited means. A red shirt victory in their fight for democracy will force new elections and a return to cash for votes in Thailand’s villages, most welcome anytime.
Above all Thailand’s northern and north eastern poor who have previously backed Thaksin Shinawatra in two landslide election victories will know a third landslide sweep will force their ‘red leader’ into implementing ‘ Charity Starts at Home ‘ as his government’s major policy. Thaksin himself is too smart not to do so.
Media speculation about Friday’s Supreme Court judgement varies from day to day but the main consensus appears to be Thaksin being given part of his assets back. The return of some money to the former leader of Thailand should be enough to restrain red shirt protests to a calmer level and cap the number of protesters travelling down from the northern regions. The court’s ruling has three possible verdicts, not guilty, guilty and damage limitation.
The world waits with bated breath for Friday’s decision and lets hope it’s one to keep violence and a country’s self destruction out of media headlines.
Photograph Thaksin Shinawatra by Webshots
Photograph PAD protesters © Dannyphoto80 | Dreamstime.com
I think either way the verdict goes that there is going to be a long spiraling effect. The red shirts seem determined to march no matter what the verdict. And they will never be happy until Thaksin is allowed back in the country with immunity.
Thaksin’s programs did exactly what they were meant to do and that is win over the hearts and minds of the rural poor. Unfortunately none of the programs he implemented are sustainable and will cause some very big problems in the future.
For all of Thaksin’s supposed love for his country it’s a shame that he refuses to see he is only tearing Thailand apart at the seams. His efforts can only end up shedding the blood of Thailand’s working poor while he sits back in his mansions drinking champagne with friends and smiling.
.-= Talen´s last blog ..Thailand in the News Week Ending 2/20/10 =-.
Martyn my money(such as I have at the moment given the exchange rate)is on a typical Thai compromise(fudge)some money will be returned, perhaps to his family. Whether this is enough to keep the masses happy is another matter.
Personally, although I was not here when he was PM, I think he did some good. The question is of course at what cost and to whom?
I doubt he will return, but what happens to the reds, since they would appear not to make good bed fellows with the yellows.
Anything that makes the Baht go down would be most welcome from the expat community I am sure 🙂
.-= Mike´s last blog ..Mahouts and Elephants Photo/Image =-.
Mike I was visiting Thailand regularly when Thaksin was in office and the country seemed a far better place to be in than it has been over the past few years (the sterling was certainly much healthier). I would go along with you and guess the Supreme Court has to give back Thaksin a proportion of his money just to keep the peace, they won’t want to but must do. The money will swell Thaksin’s political war chest and make things very interesting thereafter, I don’t think Thaksin or the UDD will give up until the country has had one more vote.
Talen I agree wholeheartedly with your comment. I am a Thaksin fan but an uneducated one as far as Thai politics are concerned, I know the basics and a little bit more but haven’t lived the day to day scene as such. I think your way in that if Thaksin hadn’t been kicked out of office then he would have struggled to sustain fresh freebie policies long term. In some ways the current situation has given him a chance to make a whole new start assuming he can get back in the country.
If Thaksin gets back in the country it won’t be a whole new start it will be a civil war. There are only two ways he comes back…in hand cuffs headed to jail or at the head of a coup attempt.
It would be nice if he would just fade away and the new crop of politicians worked towards a united Thailand and whats good for all Thai’s. A boy can dream.
.-= Talen´s last blog ..Keeping Score in Thailand =-.
we are living in dangerous and uncertain times for Thailand if god forbids the king passes away in the middle of the next troubles which i feel is only a matter of when then we could see prolonged disruption to the country knowing my luck it will all start on the weekend my flights leaves Bangkok
.-= john´s last blog ..new Thai biometric passport in london =-.
Darn that Thaksin, he ruined plans for a perfectly good weekend…
And I imagine that’s the extent of what a lot of expats living in Bangkok are worried about – the disruption to their lives.
For most it’ll be minor. Because no matter how much we know that we are unlikely to see any Red Shirts unless we go out hunting, the uncertainty is still there. Will it blow softly over (as usual), or will THIS one be the one to write home about?
I’m still undecided as to what I’ll do…
.-= Catherine´s last blog ..How Do You Overcome Mind Block During Language Study? =-.
Talen I’m still hanging on the net awaiting the decision from the Supreme Court and it’s now five in the afternoon Thai time, nothing yet. Maybe after the next elections and the Puea Thai party head the country, Thaksin will be allowed back in and his money will surely be given back to him. Civil war…I don’t like the sound of that.
John I’m praying the country is stable for my own trip on May 1st and fingers crossed for yours as well. I think the Supreme Court will make a ‘stable as possible’ verdict in the hope it won’t spark the gunpowder.
Catherine I think Thaksin’s weekend is going to be a lot more spoilt than yours then again if he gets a few million pounds back then maybe not. The rest of his billions will come when the Puea Thai party rule.
I’m hoping everything blows over softly. The red shirts have put back their Bangkok rally to the middle of March.