Do we have another "indispensable man"? - The Nation, December 26, 2004
[More tough talk from The Nation.]
...When the opposition party asked why he had waited to announce
this benevolent package just before the election, he did not offer
any explanation. When they asked why he hadnt considered
a cut in mobile phone charges, his response was incoherent gibberish.
...With regained confidence and a resurgence in his popularity
thanks to the origami bird PR stunt show and his whipping up of
a nationalist frenzy, Thaksin is no longer satisfied with just
two terms as the unchallenged and supreme national leader whose
words must be obeyed without question.
...His haughty behaviour and imperious manners throughout the
past four years both in deed and in word were geared
towards creating a personality cult that would transform him into
this indispensable man without whom the nation could not survive...
[2015 note: Like many Thai newspaper articles from the early days of the Thai internet, this article is no longer online. Below is the complete text of the original article.]
During a chummy round with news reporters at a hotel in Cha-am two weeks ago, Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra floated a trial balloon in a not-so-subtle style. In what seemed like a casual remark he said that while he had accomplished many things during the past four years and that a lot more could be expected to be done for the people in the next four, there might be one mission out there that is impossible to complete.
That is to find a successor for the leadership of the Thai Rak Thai Party who would willingly take cues from him about how to guide the country towards continuing prosperity. He was implying that it would not be enough to serve the country for two terms only to retire to enjoy his massive wealth.
No, leading this country will become the burden he alone must bear – without much pleasure.
What a sacrifice from a national leader who has been struggling to come out on top in the upcoming election by offering up all sorts of populist, crowd-pleasing goodies and freebies, though always at the expense of other people’s money.
He ordered that the tollway charge be slashed to Bt20, underground fares to Bt10 and, with gentle arm twisting and coercive bargaining, managed to coax the operator of the expressway to figure out lower rates for cars. This package is to please city people, from the grassroots in the concrete jungle to the well-heeled motorists on the roads.
When the opposition party asked why he had waited to announce this benevolent package just before the election, he did not offer any explanation. When they asked why he hadn’t considered a cut in mobile phone charges, his response was incoherent gibberish.
That he feels he must win the election with massive and guileful outlays of government funds is well known. And his election victory is virtually guaranteed, barring unforeseen circumstances. How big the win will be and how long he will be around in the second term remain topics of conjecture.
With regained confidence and a resurgence in his popularity thanks to the origami bird PR stunt show and his whipping up of a nationalist frenzy, Thaksin is no longer satisfied with just two terms as the unchallenged and supreme national leader whose words must be obeyed without question.
Oh yes, he wants more after that. Whether he regrets having made the statement about his desire to take the top job for only two terms will become clear when he sees how many seats his MPs take in the election. We have already witnessed a couple of potential “Number Twos” reduced to roles just a bit better than errand boy.
What’s wrong with Thaksin wanting to stay on as long as no financial mayhem or political crisis develops to ignite a groundswell of public discontent?
What we can expect in his second term are a higher degree of political arrogance, and even more corruption and cronyism.
Observers can probably also expect increasingly authoritarian tendencies on the part of the government and more nationalist campaigns.
The prime minister’s comments to the reporters were designed to create the impression that there is indeed an “indispensable man” out there, and that it is him.
His haughty behaviour and imperious manners throughout the past four years – both in deed and in word – were geared towards creating a personality cult that would transform him into this indispensable man without whom the nation could not survive.
Alas! History has shown that in this fair land, national leaders are not only indispensable, but disposable as well. Only one or two, including General Prem Tinsulanonda, have enjoyed a graceful and quite honourable exit after announcing “I have had enough”. The others have all left unexpectedly, some also unceremoniously. It is not Thaksin who will decide how long he can stay on, but the people – that is, those who are not victims of gullibility or grateful recipients of populist freebies – when they go to the polls.
By the way, if he thinks being prime minister is too much of a burden or one that he does not enjoy carrying, he surely can leave whenever he wants.
Before that time comes, he should thank his stars for all the opportunities he has had to amass such great wealth while most of his fellow countrymen have been amassing debts driven by consumerism and growth-oriented economic stimulus packages.
A major problem for the people in this country is that it is already very difficult to find leaders who are competent, decent and honest, among other noble qualities. It is even harder to usher out corrupt and despotic leaders, all of them “indispensable”, whose self-serving megalomania always leads the country to structural decay, shame and possibly crises of survival.
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