Monday, October 20, 2008

Case Study: Thailand

To be honest, I'm a little confused about what's going on in Thailand.

The former Prime Minister Thaksin is in England in self-exile. There was a military coup because PM Thaksin was accused of corruption. Charges included selling his family's controlling stake in telecommunications company Shin Corp. to Singapore's state-owned Temasek Holdings for a tax-free $1.9 billion. Critics allege the sale involved insider trading and complain a key national asset is now in foreign hands.

Thaksin also has been accused of stifling the media and mishandling a Muslim insurgency in southern Thailand that flared under his rule.

Here's the thing. People’s Alliance for Democracy, the coalition of businessmen, academics and activists, has accused the new Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat of being a political proxy for Thaksin, his brother-in-law. The PAD is now going for broke, according to many political analysts. The arrest of two of PAD leaders, Chaiwat Sinsuwong and Chamlong Srimuang, who were detained on treason charges in for their roles in the anti-government group's late August raids on government buildings, signals a renewed campaign to attempt to topple the government. Many believe Chamlong orchestrated his own capture to fire up the PAD protestors, whose enthusiasm for the battle has waned in recent weeks.

But, the Thai who live in the large rural sections of the country love Thaksin. Villagers point to the homes they built during Thaksin's tenure from 2001 to 2006, the refrigerators they bought, the general store they opened - all a result of the low-interest loans his government offered.

"Thaksin was the savior of the poor," said Kamcham Pokasang, 68, a farmer from Kok Loi in the northeastern province of Buriram, where lush green paddies of jasmine rice stretch to the horizon. "Before Thaksin we had nothing, only rice fields. Thanks to Thaksin, my family now has everything."

What's most sad is that the political crisis is a tug-of-war between Thaksin's supporters in the countryside, where two-thirds of Thailand's 65 million people live, and an educated middle class who feels threatened by the rural majority's growing political clout.

This isn't to say there hasn't been corruption and that Thaksin's opponents don't care for the poor - like our Republicans. They, unlike our Republicans, Thaksin's critics want to jettison his policies promoting privatization, free trade agreements and CEO-style administration.

There is more to be read about this story here, from BBC News Asia-Pacific, which leads with the fact that you know something ain't right when doctors break their hypocratic oath and refuse to treat injured policement. Also here, Bangkok Post General News details more Thaksin legal troubles.

Admittedly, I came upon this story because my mom has some thing about no one in the house changing the internet homepage, and the story popped up as soon as I opened the web browser. I caught glance of it just before I began to type in the web address to my email account. But, I think there's something here for us Americans to glean. And it does have to do with the difference between socialism and democratic socialism.

First of all, wow! I mean really politicians, do enter politics because you're corrupt? or is it that you were led astray?

Second of all, another wow! at how Asian countries deal with their corrupt politicians. Can you imagine what America would be like if we got rid of our corrupt politicians? And it's not even like Thaksin illegal invaded and sovereign nation or anything like that, and he's had to leave the country!

Third of all and actually most important, all kidding aside, I'm concerned that 1/3 of Thai people think they know what's best for the other 2/3. I'm concerned because maybe the 2/3 were bought off with the new houses and help entering modernity. I'm concerned because maybe the 1/3 are being so legalistic, they see the forest for the trees.

All said, I'm concerned that these groups can't come together and about the swirl of rumors of lies which are believed no matter how sensationalized or ridiculous. Sound familiar.

Listen, Americans. You can't make political decisions based on what you think is best for you as an individual. I mean, you can, I just question the wisdom of such thinking. And you certainly can't make a decision based solely on what the politicians are saying. Get informed. Find out what happens when. And especially, don't believe what one guy (McCain) is saying about the other guy (Obama, for whom I just voted!).

And you can't vote based on "scary" words like "socialism" or "spreading the wealth." Especially if you don't have any wealth, then, dumb- , er, I mean dear voter, you're gonna get some help from the government, which you probably deserve.

And you know what, I just can't figure out how we've gotten to this notion that a person worth is based solely on their paycheck. That if you don't make much, it's your fault, not the fault of the CEO who's milking your labor for all it's worth.

You gotta understand, in a capitalist society, labor is a form of capital. And many of us are allowing a labor to be undervalued. Whether it's because we're believing lies labor unions hurting rather than helping workers. Or, whether it's because you actually believe affirmative action puts whites, especially white men at a grave disadvantage. Or, maybe it's because you think we're being "invaded from the South of the border." Your labor is being undervalued and it's you're own fault. You don't keep yourself informed. You don't read all the different points of views about an issue. And Lord knows it seems like you can hardly read the truth about an issue, Mr and Mrs "I can't trust Obama because he's an Arab."

So, let's do some informing.

socialism: 1. a theory or system of social organization that advocates the vesting of the ownership and control of the means of production and distribution, of capital, land, etc., in the community as a whole. 2. procedure or practice in accordance with this theory. 3. (in Marxist theory) the stage following capitalism in the transition of a society to communism, characterized by the imperfect implementation of collectivist principles.

democratic socialism: a form of socialism with a democratic government; the ownership and control of the means of production, capital, land, property, etc., by the community as a whole -- combined with a democratic government

Now, am I saying that we should move to a completely socialist society where everybody makes the same no matter what work they do or how hard they work? No, no quite. What I'm saying is we shouldn't privatize corporate profit and then nationalize corporate losses. What I'm saying is that instead of being a proud know-nothing, maybe you should find sometime to learn what's really going on. And, trust me, when it comes to telling the truth, NY Times laps anything owned by Ruport Murdoch. (And by the by, am I the only who thinks it's funny the truth always happens to be "liberal.")

And while I encourage everyone to vote, especially for Obama, for the love of all that's good and holy, don't vote for a fellow proud six-pack know-nothing, which amounts to a drunk idiot. And yes, that's a shot a Sarah Palin, I'm sure you couldn't tell.

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But Don't Jack My Genuis