So, Pheu Thai could evolve into a Socialist or 'Social Democrat' party (such as the one currently leading a controlling coalition in Austria). A Social Democrat party supports both a free market and taxation to support a welfare state. Examples of countries that have developed along the lines of social democracies include the Nordic Model countries (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden), which lead the world in equality through a highly progressive taxation system and a well-developed welfare state.
Or, Pheu Thai could evolve into a true Democratic Socialist party similar to those of Latin America outlined in the introduction, more in favor of wealth redistribution, property redistribution and a socialist command economy. However, such a ‘Hard Left’ position would be too radical for the great majority of voters in Thailand.
This is despite the fact that Thailand does have a quasi-command economy with five year plans and a heavily centralized bureaucracy, two potential (not necessarily good) components of Democratic Socialism. So, perhaps elements of Democratic Socialism could exist within a broader Social Democrat ideology.
In terms of macro-economics then, a reformed Pheu Thai would continue Thailand’s quasi-command economy. Solving the rice problem would be a priority, and while subsidizing the cost of production is possible, the ‘Green’ element common to most Social Democracy ideology would likely continue to try to move Thailand away from mono-cropping through supporting more sugar cane production, for example. As such, it could also involve both subsidization of costs and price controls in several agricultural industries.
A more progressive taxation system, abolishing personal income tax exceptions and instituting property taxes would be a priority for a Social Democracy party. Again, property taxes would find the party running up against opposition from the 1% from both sides of the political spectrum.
A Social Democracy outlook on developing this existing welfare state would see a more equal education system promoting entrepreneurial activity, i.e., improving equality of opportunity through more investment in schools in the regions, more equipment for their chemistry and physics labs, better libraries, and educational philosophies that prioritize human rights education and social problem solving. The Left is particularly strong in these areas, with both critical pedagogy and community-based research willing and able to look into injustices along race and class lines and develop actions and policies to address them.
As for justice, a reformed Pheu Thai following a Social Democracy model would introduce change along the lines of social justice. This would include more funding for the justice system to eliminate Thailand’s backlog of cases, more transparency in terms of judgement making to establish a rational humanist aspect to Thailand’s existing case law, and a whole new set of ideological components to address the cultural rights of racial minorities such as the Thai Lao via new legislation including a National Language Policy.
The reform of Pheu Thai cannot be undertaken without the corresponding reform of the Democrat Party. If the Democrat and Pheu Thai Parties reform themselves, we might be able to see, though only through a glass, darkly, the emergence of Thailand's dream: a stable political system where all sides can clearly see each other’s ideological positions and policies.
John Draper is Project Officer of the Isan Culture Maintenance and Revitalisation Programme at College of Local Administration, Khon Kaen University. His opinion proposed for reforming the Democratic Party can find in Bangkok Post.