The situation in Thailand reminds me the old saying – be careful what you ask for you may just get it. In September of 2006, Thailand went through a military coup. The military asked for the Prime Minister to step down. After the coup, the provisional government investigated the ousted Prime Minister and charged him with many things, mostly related to a misuse of his position as PM, which lead to a huge increase in his and his family’s personal wealth.
I had the fortune to be seated next to another expat on my travels from Thailand recently, he from the UK and me from the US. He lived in Thailand outside Bangkok and me living in Bangkok. We had a discussion about ousted PM Taskin. He indicated that he believed Taskin did great things for Thailand, giving more money to people living outside Bangkok. I believe ex-PM Taskin did give things and money to people living outside Bangkok. However, the amount of wealth distributed in these outlining areas is quite small compared to ENORMOUS increase in personal wealth of ex-PM Taskin and his Family.
In a capitalistic economy, wealth is distributed by competition. Basically if something is desired by the people, the person/company that can manufacturer the item better and cheaper will sell more, gaining wealth. The company produces more of these items and hires more people. These people spend their money on food and things they desire and the economy hums along. When normal competition is interfered with by governments, the distribution of wealth becomes skewed and the wealth tends to stay in the hands of the few with power. We have all heard of countries where the upper class grows unusually large and the middle class grows small and the lower class becomes huge.
Ex-PM Taskin used his political power and turned it into wealth for him and his friends. His political power came from his campaign promises to the people outside of Bangkok which led to his election. So, while he was PM he had to make it seem that the people living in these areas benefited. But did they benefit? Well, yes and no. Yes, they benefited directly by decreased taxes or a new blanket or other some such item. However, the amount of wealth distributed to the people was very small compared the amount of ENORMOUS wealth which went to his friends and family instead of making its way by unimpeded economic forces.
Now, a little over a year later after the coup, there is still political unrest in Thailand. The new democratically elected Prime Minister has invited the Ex-PM back to the country. There are many questions arising about the ability of the current Prime Ministers ability to govern, such as:
There is a question concerning the validity of the elections that put the current PM into office; There is a question concerning his ability to remember past important events; and There is a question concerning his ability to deal with Thailand’s neighboring countries and their human rights abuses.
Now, the old PM has returned to Thailand and pleaded not guilty to the charges of abuse of power. I can almost feel the Thai people taking a big breadth, waiting to see what happens. I originally came to Thailand because it feels like a safe place to live and the people are polite and friendly. I can only hope it can stay that way.