Monday, September 08, 2008

Thailand twenty years from now

It looks like my friend Tom was correct. Tom is a neighbour of mine (he owns several properties) who likes to practise his English. He's a good guy who likes to help people and is more sensitive than he lets on. But one thing about Tom is that he is rich, and like most rich Thais, he likes to let me know about it. He will often playfully invite me to invest in a Sweensens franchise or some new business venture with him, because he knows I can't afford it. He also likes to jibe me about political figures, especially ones he knows I dislike.

I recall one day when I visited him and he was talking on the phone as I entered. He was talking to the controversial son of a well known politician. When he finished the conversation he smiled and told me: "Don't worry, I didn't tell him what you said about him on your blog".

Tom is a sharp guy and often tells me about business news before it happens. A few months back he told me he was ordering several large sacks of rice (the most expensive brand of course) to his 'upcountry' home. I asked him why and he told me: "There will be a civil war in Thailand soon for sure, I want to be ready". At first I thought it was another one of his jokes but it wasn't, he was serious.

He isn't the only hi-so person to suggest this to me either.

Could things really get that bad? Even if war is a bit of a melodramatic prediction, what does the next ten or twenty years hold for Thailand?

It makes me nervous to think about it. If Sondhi and his mob are successful, Thailand will move backwards in democratic terms by having far more appointed roles in the Parliament. That may restore stability to the country but at what cost? It's almost unheard of for a country to move backwards democratically and forward academically, economically or in terms of social freedoms.

Of course, there is a strong chance that this will not happen and Samak will ride the storm and PPP will continue to form the government.But opponents of Thaksin and Samak will remain vigilant and continue to apply pressure. Many of these alleged opponents - such as Prem - are elderly and in the final chapter of their lives but will stability ensue when the next generation of Thailand's elite take their place? Thais don't talk about this much but - according to Tom - there could be more problems ahead and with our senior statesmen gone, who will provide the stability?

Thais seem unwilling or unable to discuss this. Why is this? Perhaps a clue lies in the sort of behaviour we see from many of the protesters on either side of the ongoing conflict. Each day, the Thai and international press are showing us adults - from young men to elderly women - behaving like thirteen year old boys. They want to look tough so they carry weapons they have no idea how to use, they would be unable to use anyway and even if they did know how to use them, they would be of little help against trained and armed police or soldiers. In reality, the long planks of wood, the sticks, baseball bats and knives are almost entirely to pose for pictures with. Yet while these people strut around looking for attention - and student groups want to get in on the act too, now (they want to miss class, let them!) - problems continue to mount.

I fear that if we ignore our worries or problems then things are doomed to repeat themselves in an endless cycle of tender democracy punctured by conflict and coups, only in future the could become even more damaging. I just hope that this we can solve these problems before they happen. If we don't, I fear my friend Tom's prediction could come true.


hobby said...

R&W: Why is no one (except me ASAIK) talking about working towards a new peoples constitution as a way to resolve the crisis?

The 1997 constitution had some deficiencies, junta imposed their own version, now the PPP want to impose thir own amendments.

If the government truly wanted to move forward (instead of just victory), they would be trying to open up the constitution amendment to a consultative process.

Let the political parties have their say, all the pressure groups (including the PAD) can make submissions, and if consensus cannot be reached on some contentious items, let the people decide via a referndum.

The government should not give in to the PAD, but they also have a responsibility to try to move the country forward.

By agreeing to such a process the government would not be giving in to mobe rule, but they would be giving the PAD an incentive to go home (and if they don't go the government gets sufficient justification to make them go).

They would also be helping to rebuild the country, and making it much harder for future coups & imposed constitutions.

fall said...

Why is no one (except me ASAIK) talking about working towards a new peoples constitution as a way to resolve the crisis

Because one of the main argument for PAD leaders is that this constitution come from referendum and should not be change in anyway. If they agree that it can be changes, then changes need to be discuss. Discussion lead to peaceful solutions...

Civil war, your friend might got a point. Remember that now many politicians and senator have shown their true color. Whoever won, those politicians will still be here and there will be who-did-what investigation time.
Now, that is something the looser side would not want or go down without a fight, would they?

And in ten-twenty years, there will be no oh-great-mediator to use the silver bullet...

oneditorial said...

The problem is that those who are causing the problem, either in the forefront or behind the scenes, have no intention of engaging in talking about a new people's constitition; I doubt that anybody wants to talk in this climate. All they do is think about themselves and try to screw one another. This ongoing political crisis is one of the biggest lies in Thailand's history and the people who are engaging in this political battle, either as contributors or supporters, are all benefiting from it in one way or another.

By the way, the new look of your blog is tidier.


These high so people are quite disappointing...