Saturday, October 07, 2006

Rebooting Thai democracy

It was great to see a thoughtful piece about the coup in Thailand from Paul Cheesman in this weeks Liberal Democrat News. I don't know if the article is available on the web (if anyone does know please let me know) so I will attempt to precis what he had to say here.

Paul Cheesman's Article

Many people believe that the coup has stunted democracy in Thailand. However, this is not the case, democracy in Thailand was stunted in 2001 when the first single party government took power.

Thai Rak Thai promised 45p healthcare for the poor, farmer debt suspension and a 14k per village capital fund. Much of this was not full funded or did not work but it was very popular with the poor and when Thai Rak Thai won its second term it all but wiped out the opposition

Thaksin used his position and wealth to obtain support from MPs and persuade three opposition parties to merge with Thai Rak Thai.

Things came to a head when Thaksin sold the family company to a Singaporean company after a change in the foreign ownership rules and the sale was declared tax free by the Revenue Department. There was a public backlash with protests in the streets of Bangkok. The general election was called but this failed due to the boycott by the opposition parties. The Thaksin government was now a caretaker government but without even Parliament to keep it in check. This led to the coup which has been endorsed by the King and plans are in progress to hand over to a civilian government with further plans to draw up a constitution and hold further elections in October 2007

As Liberal Democrats we will naturally feel that a coup is undemocratic but in a young democracy like Thailand it has provided a good "reboot" where the computer is inoperative because the installed Anti-Virus program is, itself, totally infected.

My View

Much of Pauls article is true and makes sense in the context of Thailand. However, I still have a concern as to what Thaksin's opponents were opposed to. Sure some of what went on would not be tolerated in say the UK. Sure I agree that a new constitution is required with proper checks and balances to try and prevent such abuses from occurring again. However, I have this lingering suspicion that some of what his opponents were opposed to was to do with his policies and not to do with his abuse of his position. When the elections take place (hopefully next October) it is inconceivable that there will not be parties standing on a platform of Thaksinism given how popular those policies were with the majority. If that proves to be the case then I hope that the democratically elected government will be allowed to get on with the job of the implementing the policies on which they were elected.

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