Tuesday, October 03, 2006

A tale of two Thais

Ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has resigned from his That Rak Thai party according to this report. It is apparent from that report and this report in The Nation that the Thai Rak Thai party is in the process of imploding with 62 former MP's having resigned already and I suspect that the announcement which is being mooted will confirm that the party is to fold.

Meanwhile many ordinary Thais living in rural Thailand clearly still retain their affection for Thaksin Shinawatra and his polices which improved the quality of their life so much and according to this report would vote for him if there was an election tomorrow.

This is where it gets interesting. Lets assume that the Thai Rak Thai party does indeed implode and / or it is banned from taking part in the next set of elections. Lets assume that a new constitution is drawn up and elections take place as promised in October 2007. Lets also assume that Thaksin Shinawatra does not return to Thailand and plays no part in these elections.

What then will happen to all those who were part of or supported Thai Rak Thai? The likelihood is that they will form a new party or parties to contest that election. The piece in The Nation referred to above already indicates the possibility that a party called Seri Thai will be formed from the rubble of Thai Rak Thai. Given the popularity of Thaksin Shinawatras policies it is likely that Thaksinism and Thaksinite policies will form a key part of at least one new party and if such a party can present itself as a credible potential government it is also likely that that party will win the election.

The problem with all this is that I suspect that in many ways this will bring us full circle and will present a dilemma for both the military and the urban (more wealthy) electorate. Was the problem really with Thaksin Shinawatra and the way in which he sold his families company or was the problem actually that a lot of the better off middle class were not very supportive of the money being spent on the rural poor?

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