Post-Crisis Thailand : Building a new democratic society
The second crisis is of our own making, our own political situation which has been making headline news for the past few years. My Government came in nine months ago and since then we have managed to gain back confidence from our friends. The fact that I can be here speaking to you today can very well testify that the situation is in good order and not to be of concern.
Gain back confidence? Abhisit is a legend in his own mind. Everything must be in good order because the military has decided not to overthrow his regime while he is in New York?
After nine months in office, my Government has proved to the Thai people that we are a Government that represents people of all colors. For those who do not see things eye to eye with the Government and feel that their voices can be better heard on the streets, we fully respect their right to assembly and right to freedom of expression. What we as Government will make sure is that these rights are exercised in a peaceful and responsible manner with full respect to the rule of law and does not affect other people's rights to carry out their daily activities.
This is the same Abhisit who joined the PAD in trying to use pressure to oust Thaksin before the coup. This is the same Abhisit who was calling for a royally appointed prime minister. This is the same Abhisit who gave the PAD his blessing to do what it wanted when it tried to oust the PPP from power by taking over government house and the airports.
Based on past experiences, what would a post-crisis Thailand look like?
Like countries around the world, Thailand aspires for a kind of democracy that will lead us to sustainable development. We realize that this road towards a functioning democracy and sustainable development is a long and winding one, with many exits, many corners, many pot holes, and at times, seems like there is no end to it.
What exactly has Abhisit done to put Thailand on the road to sustainable development? Giving his corrupt coalition partners half a trillion baht in stimulus money so they can siphon money off the top to become filthy rich?
Thailand has gone through our democratic experience formally since 1932 when Thailand transformed from an absolute monarchy to a Constitutional Monarchy and parliamentary system. We have had 18 constitutions, we had about 24 coups, and we may have had 4 governments within the last two years. But that doesn't mean that democracy is failing in Thailand. On the contrary, democracy is vibrantly at work. Like Secretary Clinton said when she visited Thailand in July this year, Thai politics is as spicy as its food.
How is democracy working when the military ousts legitimate governments, fascist groups bully governments, and the courts outlaw Abhisit's enemies?
We have been through ups and downs and we are learning. The whole society is learning to adapt and to find ways to have a sustainable democracy. And one good thing about the political situation we have been experiencing is that more and more Thai people in all walks of life, at all levels, are becoming engaged in politics. They do not leave politics in the hands of the few.
Right, Abhisit's legitimacy comes from where exactly? The military and the amartaya. Abhisit is the hands of the few.
Politics is no longer a matter of a few elites or people at the top. Politics is in every household and I consider that a good start for a strong and sustainable democracy. There is always a silver lining in every cloud. Always an opportunity exists in every crisis.
Abhisit is the elite. Abhisit is part of taking politics from the hands of every household and putting it in the hands of the few households that determine his political destiny.
Now as to what type of democracy is needed, let me share with you my thoughts.
We want a kind of democracy which is based on the rule of law, responsibility and accountability. We want a kind of democracy where people's voices are not only heard during elections, but their voices are integral to all decision-making processes.
Abhisit doesn't believe in the rule of law. He believes in selective enforcement of the law when it benefits his political career. Why is the PAD still on the loose? Which part of the masses are integral to the decision making processes now? That's right, none.
We want a democracy where not only the majority rules, but the minority also has a fair share, their voices duly heard and their interest equally recognized.
If Abhisit believed in majority rule, he would have called for an election, and when he says that minority should have a fair share, he means the only share.
How we actually get such a democracy is, of course,a challenge, a big challenge.
As a believer in liberal democracy and as a student of politics and economics, I will offer my thoughts on how my Government intends to build Thailand into a new democratic society.
Abhisit doesn't believe in liberal democracy. He believes in an aristocracy that is born to rule.
Then I laid down basic principles on how I would bring the country to the next level. They are vital factors to making a new democratic society and these principles can very well apply to many other countries aspiring for democracy.
First, a new democratic society must be based truly on people and the people's needs. No government nowadays is a legitimate government if it does not rule in the interest of its people. In Thailand you may have heard that political division goes by color, be it yellow, red, and so on. I have made it clear since the first day in office that this Government intends to work for people of all colors, on a non-discriminatory basis. And we have done just that over the past nine months.
Flat out fabrication.
Under the first stimulus package, we have the "Tonkla-Archeep" program, which is a skill training scheme, as a social safety net for those who became unemployed during the economic crisis. 70% of 200,000 participants in this scheme have found new jobs, which, in some cases, are in different sectors from what they did previously. We have also the program called "subsistence benefits" to provide some monthly money for the elderly people without pensions to ensure that their living condition is acceptable.
What is the social security stipend? Something like 700 baht.
Second, a new democratic society in transition needs to pay attention to reconciliation. We need to ensure that political division doesn't get into the way of development. Without reconciliation, we cannot implement policies to benefit people. Change cannot be introduced. As a result, development cannot be achieved. But reconciliation does not mean bending laws. On the contrary, we will make sure that law enforcement is sufficient and fair, and that there will be justice and political solution to political problem.
This is why the courts protect Abhisit's political allies and destroy his political enemies.
When I talk about reconciliation in Thailand, I mean reconciliation at many levels; reconciliation of differences between people of all colors, be they yellow, red or others; reconciliation in the Southern border provinces, or even reconciliation and enhanced relations with our neighbors.
So far, Abhisit's policies have been a complete failure on every level in this department.
Regarding the situation in the Southern border province, my Government is trying our best to bring the situation to normalcy and to achieve prosperity and development in the long term. Through education, and social policies as well as economic development schemes, the Government has already begun to win back the hearts and minds of those who may otherwise think that the Government does not care about them.
Terrorism is still out of control in the South.
On our Eastern border, you may have heard news about tension between Thailand and Cambodia. But the situation is just one minor piece of the comprehensive relations between Thailand and Cambodia. Both sides agree not to let one single issue cloud over others. And we will not allow emotions to win over reasons and facts.
This is the same Abhisit who was using Preah Vihear to oust the previous government.
Reconciliation can happen only when we put away our subjectivity and prejudices and try to understand challenges facing all sides, their strength and weaknesses, their constraints and limitations, as well as those of our own.
Translation: We will use right-wing nationalism when its suits our political interests and benefits us.
Reconciliation can happen only when we talk and engage in dialogue in good faith. And I take this opportunity to welcome the wind of change in the US foreign policy under President Obama. I commend his willingness to "engage" and to "listen" in conducting the new chapter of US foreign policy which emphasizes on 3Ds---namely defense, development, and diplomacy. The US' leading role in addressing many challenges of today's globalized world will not be successful without the attempt to reconciliate. And reconciliation takes the efforts of all sides.
Translation: Reconciliation is good when we are calling the shots and can determine the conditions of surrender.
Third, a new democratic society needs more openness. There is no time that the world economy needs openness more than now. This is why the Government has initiated many investment incentives for foreign investors. Over the last nine months, Thailand has even entered into two more free trade agreements. So investing in Thailand does not mean investing in a market of 64 million consumers, but increasingly we are a base for production for exports, especially given the hard-working and skilled human resources. And remember, Asean has close to 600 million people and we are becoming an economic community in 2015.
This is the same Abhisit who went into hysterics when Thaksin was signing free trade agreements. This is the same Abhisit who has done nothing to weed out corruption in the bureaucracy, ripping off foreigners at the ports, etc. This is the same Abhisit who has his ministers foment nationalist hysteria over foreigners buying farm land or any land.
Openness is not only about economic policies. It is more about attitude and the way of life. Thais are known for our flexibility, open-mindedness, and that still holds true today. For many hundreds of years, we have welcomed foreigners to our society as traders, advisors, missionaries, teachers, investors and tourists. As ever, Thailand continues to welcome our foreign friends.
Maybe he should be paying more attention to all the crimes and scams committed against foreigners that are more out of control than ever.
Fourth, a new democratic society must be firmly founded on good governance. Democracy and development is certainly not possible without good governance. The political situation that we got ourselves into, in fact, is deeply rooted in the lack of good governance and accountability.
Maybe he should give his partner, Newin Chidchob, another kiss and hug for all his good work in promoting good governance and accountability. Or his buddies in the military for their procurement scams or his ministers who are stealing from the sufficiency projects.
Government popularly elected claimed their basis for governing from votes and then corrupted policies for their own benefits. But democracy should not and must not end at voting booths. Democracy is a process and it is a process which should rest firmly on the basis of good governance.
Abhisit has failed on both counts.
Apply this situation everywhere in the world and you would see where democracy is failing is where good governance is lacking. What a sustainable democracy and a sustainable development need more than anything else is good governance. This need for good governance goes for not only government but the private sector as well.
Right, when was the last time a Thai corporation has ever been held accountable for its dodgy dealings?
Fifth, in a globalised world, a new democratic society like Thailand's must take into account regional integration. Asean is now growing as a community. And as a community, Asean has entered into free trade agreements with China, Australia, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, India and Japan. Asean as a market of 580 million people, with hard working and one of the most efficient labor force in the world, a region strategically located next to two of the world's fastest growing economies, India and China, offers tremendous opportunity for investment and trade. By 2015 Asean would become a single economic community, linking together ten promising economies, 600 million consumers and capable workforce.
Who actually believes in this neo-liberal fantasy? Abhisit's policies don't match the rhetoric.
Even more important than economic benefits from regional integration, I believe, is the effects of regional integration on political development in the region. In places where democracy flourishes in one country, where people at grassroots level participate actively in local and national politics, it is inevitable that its neighbors will also feel the effects. Democracy is a learning process.
Burma, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam will become liberal democracies through Thailand's example? You can stop laughing now.
Regional integration helps accelerate the learning process. On one side, it is a peer pressure, on another side, it is simply learning by seeing, by imitating. Most importantly, regional integration helps building democracy by teamwork, with all stakeholders involved.
Who will Thailand learn from and who will learn from Thailand?
Sixth , a new democratic society in Thailand needs economically sound policies. Without economic policies which can bring development to people, democracy is bound to fail. Economic development which doesn't narrow the income gap will not bode well for democracy. I mentioned this point with concern as the gap between the rich and the poor in Thailand is also widening.
This is the same Abhisit who refuses to tax the rich. What ever happened to land reform?
My Government attaches great importance to the sufficiency economy philosophy initiated by our beloved King. Sufficiency Economy is not about shutting in from the outside world, but it is about living in moderation.
Good at spending billions to produce lame propaganda. Good at lecturing the poor to be MOSO while the rich continue to act the same as usual.
We learn from the recent crisis that a small, open economy like Thailand cannot always rely on exports to external markets by as much as 70% of GDP like the traditional textbooks postulate.
No textbook told Thailand to do this.
Thailand is trying to balance the external demand with the internal ones boosted by the Stimulus Package 2 which is also financed domestically.
And financed internationally.
Over the next three years, we plan to make massive long-term investments such as those in infrastructure initiated by the government and continued by the private sector or Public-Private-Partnership (PPP) and in human capital. In addition, we will expand our creative economy which combines our identical culture with the local innovations and technology from the current 10% of GDP to 20% with Stimulus Package 2.
We plan on directing billion to ministries that are controlled by our political allies and make them filthy rich so we can stay in power for 3 more years.
We will also provide our people enough protection from the adverse effects of globalization, either economically or culturally. The other aspect would be environmentally-friendly development toward low carbon green economy to ensure sustainable development for the future generation.
Good if true, but with Abhisit's rhetoric always trumps action.
Seventh, a new democratic society needs innovation and vision. Innovation is as important to democracy as it is to sustainable development. In any democracy, the lack of innovation can gravely undermine the spirit of learning, the desire for knowledge, and vice versa. People can become complacent and take democracy for granted. When you leave policy-making in the hands of your representatives and do not monitor them and do not consider the wider interest of the whole nation, that puts democracy in a risky situation.
This is why Abhisit goes out of his way to systematically destroy and silence his enemies through control of the media, control of state propaganda and draconian national security measures.
Vision is not only about Government, but we need the public to be able to visualize what they would wish to see their country in 5 years' time, in 10 years' time and then, with a common vision in mind, the whole nation will help move the country forward together.
A bunch of half-baked propaganda schemes and campaign does no equate vision.
I can say that what I am most proud of my Government's work over the past nine months is the fact that we have started a free 15 year basic education program. Education provides access to opportunities and equality. Democracy where people cannot make informed decision can be very damaging. It can lead to the tyranny of the majority. A true democracy must be founded on an educated public. We must invest in our future by investing in education. This is not a choice but a must.
Like I said in another blog, whether it be 9 years of education or 15 years of education, it doesn't matter the length of time if what is being produced is crap. Of course, Abhisit doesn't believe in any sort of structural reform to overhaul the education ministries so that they are functioning properly. Without reform, adding more years of schooling will only create more problems.
There is a part of me that would like to believe Abhisit's sincerity and good intentions. But the more he talks like this, the more I am convinced he is a charlatan with guile that exponentially surpasses Thaksin on every level.