Monday, December 9, 2013

When The Elites Aren't Happy

I will readily admit that political perturbations abroad command much less interest from me than those that occur domestically on both the federal and provincial level. Nonetheless, the upheavals currently underway in Thailand provide a rather fascinating lesson into what can happen when the elites (aka the rich) experience a democratically-elected government that does not do their bidding. They simply declare it 'illegitimate.'

A story in today's Star reveals that Thailand’s prime minister, Yingluck Shinawatra, has announced her intention to dissolve the lower house of Parliament and call a snap election, the decision precipitated by increasingly restive protests in the street and the fact that the Democrat party, led by a former premier, Abhisit Vejjajiva, has pulled out of the lower house. The reason, according to Vejjajiva, is that Yingluck’s government has become illegitimate, this despite the fact that her party came to power in a landslide vote in 2011 that observers said was free and fair.

So what is the problem? The official reason is that she tried to obtain amnesty for her brother, the former prime minister, but the real catalyst is something much darker, and has nothing to do with the legitimacy of her reign. The truth is, the elites of the country don't like the fact that too much has been given to the country's poor.

An analysis by Gwynne Dyer establishes some inconvenient truths that few in the mainstream media seem willing to address. Entitled The war on democracy in Thailand, the article reveals the true nature of the protestors' discontent:

The main thing that distinguishes the Civil Movement for Democracy is its profound dislike for democracy. In the mass demonstrations that have shaken Thailand since November 24, its supporters have been trying to remove a prime minister who was elected only two years ago—and their goal is not another election.

“We don't want new elections because we will lose anyway,” one protester told Reuters. “We want (the prime minister’s family) to leave the country.” If they succeeded in driving Yingluck from power, they would skip the whole business of elections and hand the country over to an appointed “People’s Council” made up of “good men”.

What is the source of their disdain for democracy? According to protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban, the majority of the Thai people are too ignorant and flighty to be trusted with the vote. The basis for this distrust of democracy, he says, is that elections in Thailand do not represent people’s (real) choices because their votes are bought.”

It is important here to note, as Dyer points out, that there is no bribery or corruption involved here. No, the truth is votes were 'bought' by Thaksin Shinawatra, the current Prime Minister's brother, through policies that most would deem progressive:

He set up programs like village-managed micro-credit development funds and low-interest agricultural loans.

He created a universal healthcare system and provided low-cost access to anti-HIV medications.

Between 2001 and 2006, the year a military coup ousted him, the GDP grew by 30 percent, public sector debt fell from 57 percent of GDP to 41 percent, and foreign exchange reserves doubled .

Income in the north-east, the poorest part of the country, rose by 41 percent.

Poverty nationwide dropped from 21 percent to 11 percent, and the prevalence of HIV/AIDS declined.

He even managed to balance the budget.

So one can see what is really bothering the elites of the country. Enlightened policy means they have to share some of the pie, something the rich never seem to be very good at.

Of course, there is little danger of such upheavals in North America. Both Canada and the United States, as we know, serve their elites very, very well.


  1. Lorne, I did not know the real story. I thought there was problem with the current government but that is not the case. That tells us how masses can be fooled especially when the literacy rate is so low.

    I believe in Egypt masses were fooled too when elected president was toppled and military took over again. It is sad state of affairs.

    1. I never cease to be amazed at the fact we consistently get only a part of the story from the mainstream media, LD. The power of the elites to shape public perception is extensive. Thank God for alternative news sources and brave journalists like Gwynne Dyer.