Amazing Thailand will prevail despite the strife

Amazing Thailand will prevail despite the strife – NST, May 14, 2014
Failed state?: One side can win by destroying the kingdom, the other by undoing failures and sharing more wealth A GREAT book about Thailand said that three things mattered: The king, the Bangkok Bank and the First Army…

[2015 note: Like many newspaper articles from just a few years ago, this article is no longer online. Below is the complete text of the original article.]

A GREAT book about Thailand said that three things mattered: The king, the Bangkok Bank and the First Army.

The king is frail (he is 87) but hardly gurgling whiskey publicly like a former Russian president. He is very much alive and around in his profound dignity, I am reliably informed.

The Bangkok Bank is very much alive, but more in the sense of the rich dominant Sino-Thai of Krung Thep (the Thai name for the city) who are everywhere.

The First Army is biding its time. We only know that its powerful leader is publicly committed to defend the royal succession. That might be a good or bad thing.

The new force is centered on Dubai, where the fugitive prime minister crouches in luxury and spends the day dictating policy to his sister – until last week, when a court caught her just as they’ve caught the whole clan in shady deals.

So Dubai will appoint someone else. Bit by bit Thaksin’s real power wanes. His knife is the Red Shirts, the thugs from the North and Northeast who do his bidding.

In every crisis since Thaksin’s long-planned triumphal entry to premiership in 2001, Thai watchers have seen doom. The Economist last week virtually wrote the kingdom off.

Let’s be clear. Thaksin and Co have the votes. Nowhere in history has the vote alone been decisive in a successful democracy. And Thaksin is a Putin, not a democrat. He thinks like a dictator, he acts like one.

The “establishment” bitterly opposing him is self-interested. But if in their hearts they are democrats under their remarkable king, they are opposing Thaksin to save Thailand from a ruthless dictator – a man who in one night had 3,000 alleged drug dealers murdered. He got the small fish, letting the big ones – sometimes his friends – get fatter.

So for the third time courts have intervened, over a marginal infraction by the prime minister, Thaksin’s younger sister Yingluck. Well, find any Thaksin who has not been caught and look for thunder in a worm.

Caesar’s wife (or sister) must be above suspicion, as Shakespeare has Caesar say of Calpurnia.

Thailand a failed state? It is on students’ minds.

“Thailand can be considered a failed state, and has been for years. Rival political groups have proven they can take over the streets of the capital. Not to the mention the storming of…”

That is nonsense. The rhetoric has overtaken reality. Consider this:

“One is the over-grabbing power-hungry neo-capitalist fascists. The other side is the 19th century yearning, task-relying, lese-majesty loving, feudal fascists. Both sides have their devoted worshippers,” wrote Voranai Vanijaka in the venerable Bangkok Post.

In the early 1990s, the Thai economy was greater – at foreign exchange equivalent – than Russia’s. Kindly don’t underestimate the kingdom’s strength. The military hasn’t spoken but the problem is the palace.

The frail great king has a failed great son, Crown Prince Voroput. YouTube has gone viral with some of his horrific party scenes. He is, for now, allegedly in Thaksin’s financial pockets. He lives a lot in his German palace where he has all he wants plus German medicine for his particular alleged ailments.

Yes, this is a zero-sum game. One side will win, one will lose. The Red Shirts and their Thaksin sponsors can win only by destroying the kingdom – the monarchy, the sacred Sanggha, and the phenomenal credit standing of Thailand.

The other side can win by patiently wearing down the Red Shirts, undoing catastrophic failures like the Thaksin rice bonus, sharing more of the wealth in traditionally backward north and northeast – as it was already doing prior to Thaksin’s advent.

It can ensure a smooth transition to a less awesome monarchy (Rama IX is the greatest of the line by far), and keep the currency strong, as it has done for 60 years.

I will place my bet on Amazing Thailand, not on a thug hiding from justice in Dubai.

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