Facts destroy the vote-buying myth

Numnual  Yapparat

New research has revealed the truth about how Thai people vote in an election. The research was conducted by Associate Professor Siripan Nogsuan from Chulalongkorn University on the 2011 election. The results are a slap in the face to the Democrat Party and their well-educated middle class supporters.

According to the excuses that the Democrats and their right-wing academics love to use, the votes of the poor, especially among people in the North and North-East, were just bought by Pua Thai and Thai Rak Thai because these villagers are supposedly “uneducated”. But the results of the research show that only 10% would vote for a party that gave them money. On the other hand, 90% of voters would use their own judgement on who to vote for based on party policies.

The research also confirmed that there are problems with just throwing money at voters. Interestingly, politicians who tried to buy votes with huge amounts of money did not win. Vote buying was only significant in a few constituencies where support for the 2 major parties was roughly equal. But in most constituencies, parties won by large majorities which could not be explained by vote-buying, even if it took place. In addition to this, the 2010 bloodshed committed against protesters in Bangkok by the Democrats, lost the party many votes among the well-educated.

Generally speaking, the results of the research are not new at all; academics who have studied Thai politics have said that Thai Rak Thai made a fundamental change to elections because they offered concrete policies to people, whereas the Democrat Party used only empty political slogans. A good example is the research in northern villages by Andrew Walker [“The rural constitution and the everyday politics” in the Journal of Contemporary Asia, 2008].

It was so predictable

Numnual  Yapparat 

“Shameless”, seems to be too polite to use with the Democrat Party. It has just announced that it is not going to participate in the coming round of elections on 2nd February 2014. One simple fact to bear in mind, before probing into the false arguments of which the Democrat Party choose to use, is that the Democrat Party will not gain a majority from the voters and that is why they have to boycott the election. The Democrats has never had policies that benefit the poor. They have never polled more than a third of the votes in the last 20 years, even before Thai Rak Thai was formed.

Here are their excuses why they choose to boycott the election. They claim some groups in Thailand have distorted the democratic principles, which makes people lose faith in parliamentary democracy and the electoral system. More importantly, they claim that political reform cannot emerge from these circumstances. The Democrat Party wants to stop the election because they say it will lead to a new crisis, endless violence and corruption.

I just want to gently remind the readers that the Democrat Party has had endless record of corruption scandals from when it was in power. The Agricultural Land Reform Policy was a good example.

Abhisit Vejjajiva, the leader of the Democrat Party, proudly boasts that this is not the first time that his party has boycotted an election. It did it in 1952 and again in 2006 at the time when he was the leader of the party. In the coming round of the planned general election, his party will do it again and they also demand that if fellow parties want to participate in the election, they should declare to the people that they want to promote the “Taskin System” and therefore they must be blamed for they failure of political reforms.

Abhisit said, the unforgivable mistake that the Pau Thai Party has made recently, was to try and pass the amnesty bill for those who are corrupt. He also criticised Pau Thai’s plan to amend the constitution in order to make sure that all senators are elected. Abhisit hates elections. The Democrat Party wants to finish the “political reform” process before any general election, in order to make sure that the minority of the middle class who support the party can gain more influence than the majority of the electorate.

Naturally, Abhisit failed to mention his crime when he ordered the killing of 90 un-armed Red Shirted protesters in 2010.

What is the truth in their hoity-toity words?

Yingluk sleep-walks into the trap set by elite anti-democratic forces

Giles Ji Ungpakorn

 Yingluk and her Pua Thai government were pressurised into dissolving parliament by a nasty coalition of Sutep Tuaksuban’s Democrats, middle-class protesters, pro-military academics, conservative civil servants and NGO groups. This is the same coalition which supported the 2006 military coup.

Having now tasted blood, they want more. They are demanding that Yingluk resigns her position as caretaker Prime Minster, a role stipulated by the Constitution. They want the election to be boycotted by opposition parties. They also want to postpone the general election, which is due in early February. They are justifying this by their dishonest claim to want to “reform” Thai politics before any new election. But what they are really seeking is to change the election rules so that the Democrat Party can win more parliamentary seats. The Democrats have never won more than a third of the national vote over the last 20 years. This is because the party is a conservative party of the elites and big business which is against using public funds to provide jobs, welfare and decent health care. In addition to the vote-fixing which they seek, they want to reduce the role of elected politicians and increase the role and power, even further, of elite-appointed conservatives. Already the military appointed Constitutional Judges have ruled that they can prevent an elected parliament from changing the Constitution.

Disgracefully, the Electoral Commission, which is supposed to over-see free and fair democratic elections, is also putting pressure on the government to postpone the election and compromise with those who wish to reduce the democratic space. The Pua Thai Party and their supporters in the UDD Red Shirt leadership have failed to counter these attacks on democracy. Yingluk is sleep-walking into a trap set by elite anti-democratic forces. Earlier, her party made a dirty deal with the military, promising to give amnesty to the generals and the Democrat politicians who murdered protesters in 2010. Pua Thai hoped then to be able to bring Taksin home. Another part of that deal was to assure the military that it would retain all its power and privileges and also defend the continued use of lèse majesté. So far the military has been sitting on the fence in the confrontation between Sutep and Yingluk.

Real democratic reforms would involve a complete overhaul of the judiciary, the introduction of a jury system, the withdrawal of the military from politics and the media, the scrapping of the lèse majesté law and the end to impunity for state murderers and coup makers. However, this is very far from the minds of those who now bleat out the call for “political reform”.

It’s class, not geography, stupid

Giles Ji Ungpakorn

Many commentators on the Thai political crisis continue to trot out nonsense about the Red Shirts being rural villagers or migrant workers to the city and Sutep’s Yellow Shirt supporters being Bangkok residents. Yet the results from the 2011 general election showed that in the 33 Bangkok constituencies, the Democrat Party won 44.34% of the vote, while the Pua Thai Party won 40.72%. Pua Thai even won 2 seats from the Democrats. Overall, Pua Thai managed to increase their Bangkok seats by a total of 4. The Democrats still had more seats, but lost 7. 

This shows that the Bangkok population is evenly split between Pua Thai and the Democrats and this is based on those who have house registrations in Bangkok. Thousands of rural migrant workers who work and reside permanently in Bangkok are registered to vote in their family villages. If they were registered where they actually live and work, Pua Thai might have achieved an overall majority in Bangkok.

The only area of the country where the Democrats have some strength, are some areas of the south where Sutep Tueksuban’s family dynasty control politics through a system of patronage. Some members of his family are also MPs. Other areas of the south are also controlled by long-standing Democrat Party patronage, such as Chuan Leekpai’s constituency. Such patronage makes a mockery of Sutep’s avowed aims to “reform” politics. The Democrat Party patronage predates Taksin and Thai Rak Thai and one factor which helped create it was the support given to the Democrats by ex-Communists in the region. Apart from these historical aspects, the South is also the most prosperous part of Thailand, with the exception of Bangkok. Much income is generated from tourism and higher value agriculture.

The real division between the “Reds” and the “Yellows” in the current crisis, which dates back to 2005, is CLASS. There is a clear tendency for worker and poor to middle income farmers to support Pua Thai and the Red Shirts, irrespective of geographical location. This is because of Thai Rak Thai’s pro-poor policies of universal health care, job creation and support for rice farmers. In the provinces and in Bangkok, the middle classes and the elites tend to vote for the Democrats and want to reduce the democratic space and turn the clock back to pre-Thai Rak Thai times.

Thai Media Associations issue anti-government statement

Numnaul  Yapparat

Sutep Tueksuban is calling a new round of big demonstrations against Yingluck’s caretaker government on 22nd December 2013, which is causing growing concern about increased tensions. The Thai Print Journalists Association, The Thai Broadcasting Journalists Association and The News Broadcasting Council of Thailand issued a statement expressing their concern about the current crisis. They demanded that the caretaker government enforce the laws without showing double standards or the use of force against the protesters. They urged both sides to be patient and urged the protester to strictly follow a non-violent path.

The media organisations claim to support elections as a basic principle in the democratic system. However, they are afraid that the new round of elections on 2nd February would not end the crisis; the elections are being held in such unusual circumstances where there are deep divisions among people.  Such an environment would distort the judgment of many voters, they claim. Therefore, the election rules should be based on negotiations and consensus, according to these media associations.

This statement is hypocritical and dishonest and it insults the intelligence of the electorate. It is hypocritical because it is Sutep and his mob who have used violence while the Government has shown great restraint. The Government’s actions are totally different from those of the previous Democrat Party government, of which Sutep was a senior cabinet member. Sutep’s government shot down 90 un-armed pro-democracy demonstrators in cold blood.

The media associations claim to support the democratic system, yet they want the democratically elected government to compromise and reach a consensus with those who wish to see a dictatorship.

Finally, the insulting idea that the majority of the electorate will somehow be “confused” by the crisis and will not use considered judgement when voting, is merely another version of the Yellow Shirts’ claim that the majority of Thais are too ignorant to deserve the right to vote.

Most of the Thai broadcasting media is controlled, either by the military or by anti-government forces. The English language print media has always supported the Yellow Shirts and the military, while about half the Thai language print media is on the side of the elected government.

The Latest sin of the Constitutional Court

Numnual Yapparat

The Lawyers’ Council of Thailand appealed to the Constitutional Court about Sutep Tueksuban’s anti-government protest, claiming that it was against the Constitution, since it called for a change from parliamentary democracy. Sutep called for an appointed parliament, contrary to the Constitution. He also called for the restoration of the Absolute Monarchy. The Lawyers’ Council also stated that Sutep’s supporters illegally occupied numerous government buildings, and consequently, public servants and workers couldnot do their jobs.

Sutep, a long-time member of the Democrat Party, wants to set up an appointed Peoples’ Assembly in order to draft new bills on how to rule Thailand. This is the very same concept that the absolute monarch, King Rama VI, suggested in order to avoid real democratic changes.  He set up the infamous “Democratic School” in which a few privileged people were invited to attend. However, such rotten concepts could not survive for long. Thereafter, the next Thai monarchy (Rama VII) was overthrown in the 1932 revolution. Disgustingly, the right-wing manipulated history and made him into an icon of Thai democracy. His statue is in front of parliament. But in London, Oliver Cromwell’s statue is in front of the Houses of Parliament! Unsurprisingly, Sutep and Abhisit put Rama VII as their number one hero!

The Red Shirts and pro-democracy activists are raising their concerns about the attempt by Sutep’s gang to dismantle the democratic system.

Nasty as usual, the Constitutional Court proclaimed that Sutep and his people have demonstrated “legally”. The Constitution Court turned a blind eye to the fact that the protests were often violent. Personally, I think the Constitutional Court should be abolished because they pose a great harm to democracy.

Usual slave motto for Thai Children

Numnual  Yapparat

The Thai prime minster has given the new motto for Children’s Day; 11th January 2014. “Repay the kindness shown by your elders, know your duties, strictly adhere to disciplines and strengthen the Thai nation”. On the day, the government is going to welcome all the children into Government House. Children can sit on the Prime Minister’s chair and take photos.

For the sake of the Thai ruling classes, children are not allowed to learn the truth about Thai or international history. They have been taught that “one man one vote” is a Western value which is not suitable for Thai society. When these children finish their courses at university some may use Adolf Hitler as a famous icon to celebrate their graduation. If they want to run their own businesses; like a fried chicken shop, they might use Adolf Hitler as the brand name. Amazing Thailand!

This year we are witnessing how the authorities are abusing students in university and secondary school.  Netiwit Junrasal, who is studying at secondary school, began to demand the right to choose what to do with his hair. He criticised the head teacher who favoured military hair-styles to control students. He challenged the core of Thai conservative ideas about “Thainess” and nationalism. He started encouraging his fellow students to abandon such poisonous myths. He has been bullied by his teachers. Of course, if he follows the Thai Prime Minister’s motto he would not be free.

Aum Neko, who is studying at Thammasart University, asked the simple question about student uniforms. Lots of Thai universities still force students to wear uniforms. Will it help students to better understand the World or democracy, she asked. She was condemned by right-wing lecturers and students. Lately, she openly criticised the Vice Chancellor of Thammasart University who supported the coup in 2006 and suggested that Thailand might not need democracy. She was threatened by his deputy, who said he wanted to punch her in the face. Welcome to Thailand, the land of backwardness!

Thai politics