Friday, November 16, 2007

Deconstructing Suthichai Yoon: Dopey Questions from a Dopey Editor

Let the real big political debate begin

Suthichai Yoon

The Nation

Screaming vulgarities at reporters certainly can't be counted as a political party leader's participation in a healthy debate to offer eligible voters a clear insight into what his party really stands for.

The Nation's MO: Consistently attack Samak for his outbursts until the election.

And confronting the press in a verbal showdown can't provide an excuse to avoid an open debate on the country's real issues.

It can be a legitimate excuse in dealing with The Nation, which has no journalistic integrity.

Despite claims to the contrary by certain party leaders, a one-on-one interview can never satisfy voters' demand for a robust exchange of ideas among political leaders.

Suthichai never ceases to amaze me with his omnipotent powers.

A public debate puts to the test not only the party leader's IQ (intelligence quotient) but also the EQ (emotional quotient). The latter may prove to be more important because it determines the degree of respect a candidate gives to the intelligence of the general public.

Unfortunately, Suthichai doesn't believe the people have the ability to make up their own minds, which is why he wants the government to dictate to people how they should make choices.

To make sure that the electorate gets what it deserves, the National Election Commission should initiate its own Big Debate in which wide-ranging public participation is guaranteed and all party leaders running in the election are required to take part without exception.

Is there a government agency out there that The Nation doesn't want to compel people to do its bidding? Seriously, I have never in my whole life seen a newspaper editor that advocates involving the government in politics and elections as much as Suthichai Yoon. Why have elections at all? Suthichai knows best.

In order that the current crop of party leaders won't be able to keep brushing off the really crucial questions, here are some of my questions for the Big Debate:

How do you define "populism"? Would you say your party's platform is a populist one? How is that different from a "welfare state" platform?

Dopey question number one. Instead of worrying about the labels, why doesn't Suthichai worry about which policies will work and which policies won't work? But it doesn't surprise me that Suthichai is worried more abour superficial labels than substance.

This is a vital issue, since a commitment to either policy would inevitably be linked to tax and social security issues. But politicians have tried desperately to avoid being questioned on the flip side of their vote-getting slogans and have also failed to address the cold hard facts on the sensitive and more relevant question:

"Where will the money come from?"

Here is another example of Suthichai's incompetence and pure laziness. Why doesn't Suthichai have one of his sycophants look at what the politicians are promising, then go to an economist for an independent financial analysis, then ask the politicians who are promising the world, how are you going to finance these programs? Economist A says it will cost $100 billion baht. Economist B says $200 billion baht. However, discretionary spending is $50 billion baht.

How do you define "sufficiency economy"? And how is it different from the previous so-called grassroots "populist policy"?

Is this really an important question? No, it is a stupid question. Why do the labels matter?

Will your party seek a pardon for the 111 banned executive members of the disbanded Thai Rak Thai Party (including Thaksin Shinawatra, of course) so that they can resume their political activities?

Don't we already know the answer to this question?

Where each party stands on this question offers the electorate an insight into the sanctity of the rule of law - and how a political party views the consequence of using influence and money to circumvent the election law.

Look at Suthichai spins the propaganda. Suthichai has no respect for the rule of law or he wouldn't have championed the coup.

Funny how Suthichai doesn't think about asking anybody about the legality of the coup or prosecuting the coup makers for ripping up the old constitution.

Futher, Suthchai has no problems with the military or state agencies using taxpayer money to support his personal political agenda and the political agenda of his allies.

A crucial question for both People Power Party leader Samak Sundaravej and Democrat leader Abhisit Vejjajiva in this debate:

How are you going to treat Thaksin if you were to be the country's next prime minister?

This is where the biggest difference between the two main party leaders will be noted. No, this isn't a question of personal feelings towards the controversial ex-premier. It's about making a public stand on corruption, cronyism, populism, liberalism and, you guessed it, money politics.

More of Suthichai's lies and spin. First, Thaksin hasn't been convicted of any crimes, except for the kangaroo court case regarding the party disbandment. Second, one can make an assessment about corruption, cronyism, populism and liberalism in Thailand without Thaksin. Third, the Democrats may have a clean image, but some in that party have not always acted cleanly. Of course, The Nation refuses to investigate and report on the corruption, cronyism, money politics and populism that has occurred over the last year in the Surayud government while Thaksin was in exile. As for liberalism, I don't think that much of it ever really existed in Thailand, and what did exist of it, was murdered by the coup makers and their allies.

How would you, as prime minister, prevent another military coup?

Samak has sought votes by declaring that if his party is elected to power, that alone would reduce the chances of another coup. Exactly how his logic works is always puzzling to most people, especially this latest comment. For one thing, his "nominator" (as opposed to "nominee") was ousted by a coup in the first place. And his confrontational style is courting trouble from all quarters concerned.

This question of a premier convincing the military establishment that another attempt at a military takeover would be suicidal, however, remains one of the most important roadblocks on Thailand's path back to credible democracy.

This is a good question. Of course, Suthichai shamelessly spins it so that it is another attack on Samak. Maybe Suthichai should ask himself the question. An answer might be that the Thai media shouldn't support coups and propagate for juntas in Thailand. Maybe the Thai media should actually do some digging into the political affairs of military generals who should be defending the country from foreign invasion instead of playing in domestic politics.

If Suthichai had any balls, he should be asking about a military reform agenda, which takes political power away from the military and keeps them in the barracks forever. Of course, Suthichai would never advocate for that, because then who would act as his political patrons. Without the military protecting him and helping his career, Suthichai really is a nobody.

How would the government that you may lead bring the violence in the deep South to an end? What's the time frame? What exactly, in your opinion, are the root causes of the southern problems? How do you plan to resolve them?

This is the only question I agree with.

Don't beat about the bush. Be specific. The voters have already heard too many generalisations from politicians.

How do you propose to face the climate change issue, apart from making general statements about "closely following the world trend?"

Thailand definitely needs an environmental policy. However, the questions shouldn't be limited to trendy global warming. How about recycling, preservation of the forests, ocean protection, fishery protection, pollution, nuclear power, waste disposal, upkeep of the national parks, encroachment, traffic, food supply protection, genetically modified foods etc?

Last but certainly not least is the life-and-death question for every politician:

How can you convince me that I should go out and vote for you?

I have many problems with this idiotic column.

1. Suthichai doesn't believe he has to do any independent policy analysis on his own. All he thinks one has to do to get politicians to "debate' is for the EC to compel the party leaders to show up for a government sponsored forum, so he can look like a big shot and ask his dopey questions.

2. Suthichai doesn't believe anybody other than the party leaders should have to answer questions. Thailand doesn't have a presidential system. Why doesn't he send out reporters to ask questions of minor candidates from the provinces and ask them about the issues?

3. Suthichai doesn't think there are any localized problems in Thailand, other than in the South.

4. What about education policy, energy policy, agricultural policy, foreign relations, labor issues, migration, defense procurement, amending the constitution, and protection of the nation's cultural assets like Ayutthaya?

Unfortunately, Suthichai is all about Thaksin, populism and petty politics.

So far, The Nation's political coverage of the election has been utter crap. Not surprising.

I doubt it will be change from attacking Samak, attacking PPP, attacking Thaksin, giving the Democrats positive coverage, and reporting on inter and intra-party fighting.

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