First of all, I would like to express my appreciation to all Thais for the overwhelming turnout in the Sunday polls, no matter what parties you voted for. In this election, in my opinion, the economic policies of the competing parties were not so much of an issue, because almost all parties just followed those of the disbanded Thai Rak Thai Party. Rather, political reasons seemed to be the deciding factor.
This election is undeniably a result of what has happened since the Sept 19 coup last year through to the charter referendum in August when people were dramatically polarized. And the Dec 23 election can probably be roughly said to be a fight between those who reject the military regime plus supporters of the People Power Party-a Thai Rak Thai reincarnation-and those who support the ‘old elite' and their allied Democrat Party, including certain middle class groups in Bangkok.
I say ‘certain groups', as I do not believe that most Bangkok people favour the Democrats. Bangkokians do not include only the educated white-collar middle class. The media, academics, the Democrats themselves, and Defence Minister Gen Boonrawd Somtat have tried to claim Bangkok's support as a decisive proof of the legitimacy of the Democrat Party to form a government. I feel sorry for them; don't they ever read the 2007 charter that they wrote with their own hands?
Article 4 of the charter says ‘Human dignity, rights, freedom, and equality of individuals must be upheld.'
Article 5 stipulates that ‘Thai citizens of any origins, genders or religions must be equally protected under the constitution.'
And Article 30 says ‘individuals must be equal and equally protected by the laws.'
Just these three articles should suffice to stop them from belittling those who voted for the PPP.
I myself am a born Bangkokian. So far, people in Bangkok have always taken advantage of people from the countryside. Bangkok has long become ‘Thailand', with all resources, including labour, catering to Bangkok residents. With all these advantages, it should be enough, and we should let the people have their political rights, shouldn't we?
I think it is time we subverted the notion that ‘rural people elect the government, and Bangkok people overthrow the government.' If the PPP is successful in forming the government by due process, and the upset Bangkok middle class irrationally takes to the streets to oust it, I would like to invite the people from the North and Northeast to come down to exercise their right to protect the government they have elected.
On Election Day, I was invited to join a cable TV programme together with another lecturer from the National Institute of Development Administration (NIDA). This lecturer commented that northeastern people are entangled in patronage systems, and he denounced policies, while praising Bangkok's middle class. When asked by the moderator, I said that if those populist policies such as the village fund were really that bad, how come the Democrat Party offers the policies of tambon funds of-3 million baht, free education, fixed LPG prices, etc. The lecturer did not respond.
I believe that in the next 10 years, if the government can solve the rural people's fundamental economic problems to a certain extent, these rural constituencies would probably have more abstract demands such as equality including equality in education, which is the most important. By that time, welfare-type policies perhaps will be less significant. I think their needs must be met by the government, as they have long been overlooked by past governments.
Another point that I want to make here is ‘reconciliation'. First of all, it needs a clear definition. In a modern state plagued with social problems, with numerous interest groups, and with such advanced communications technology, it is normal that we have diverse political perspectives. Reconciliation does not mean that everyone must be made to think the same, and do the same, leaving no room for criticism. The majority and minority must respect each other, and the state must be the least biased and discriminating. Any problems must be solved through parliamentary and judicial processes, with public participation, for example, in proposing laws or removing office holders. Never again will ‘undemocratic' means be allowed such as coup d'état or the call for the use of Article 7.
There should be an attempt to collect the words of politicians, academics, and so-called ‘senior citizens' since the coup to show their political stance, so that the public would not bother with what they have to say. In my view, they are inconsistent and opportunistic, and must more or less take responsibility for supporting the coup.
I would like to end by saying ‘Farewell dictators, and welcome back Democracy.'