A member of ultra-nationalist Pitak Siam [Protecting Siam] demonstrates

against Thailand's democratically-elected government: Thai democracy is

still on shaky ground. The author of this article, Kuldep Nagi, thinks that

Thai opposition activists should look to America for examples of how to

behave gracefully and patriotically after election defeats.



American Democracy Should be Model for Thai Politicians (The Nation, Thailand)


"Thailand is a constitutional democracy, but the scenario on the streets makes it look more like anarchy. ... Although not perfect, there is a lot to learn from America's elections, especially how to concede defeat and move on. Perhaps losing factions and opposition parties in Thailand should listen to Mitt Romney's concession speech for little inspiration."


By Dr. Kuldep Nagi*


November 20, 2012


Thailand - The Nation - Original Article (English)

President Obama and Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra ustand under a portrait of Thailand King Bhumibol Adulyadej, Nov. 18. While Thailand is known as one of the safest and most beautiful countries in Asia, it has a turbulant political past and lacks some vital democratic traditions.

BBC NEWS VIDEO: King of Thailand, Bhumibol Adulyadej, pardons a U.S. man jailed for insulting the royal family. The pardon was granted just before President Obama's visit, Nov. 8, 00:02:32RealVideo

The U.S. election held on Nov. 6 showed how the American voting public has not only become more diverse in its makeup, but in its mindset as well. Barack Obama's campaign won based on the assumption that the electorate would retain much of the age, ethnic and racial diversity he brought to the surface in 2008. Across the country, voters affirmed changes in social policy that show how the culture is changing along with it.


Embracing change has always been the hallmark of American society. But this time it caught Republicans off guard. They banked on an electorate more monolithic and conservative than it was four years ago. This foreshadows changes over the next generation that may dramatically alter the political maps of long-held Republican states.


During his victory speech, President Obama gave credit to the coalition he had held together. "It doesn't matter if you're Black or White, or Hispanic or Asian, or Native American, or young or old or rich or poor, able, disabled, gay or straight," he told supporters gathered in Chicago. "You can make it here in America if you're willing to try."


Can we say the same thing about Thailand?


Not yet - and not for few more decades. Let's look at the political environment in Thailand. In any progressive democracy, people put great importance on the rule of law. But in Thailand, laws are made to be broken. And they are broken by every faction - red, yellow and the rest. Thailand is a constitutional democracy, but the scenario on the streets makes it look more like anarchy. Only in "Amazing Thailand," do factions such as the yellow shirts [People's Alliance for Democracy] and now the Pitak Siam [Protecting Siam], continue to believe that the current Pheu Thai-led government [red-shirts] is not a legitimately elected one.


[Editor's Note: Thailand's current Prime Minister, Yingluck Shinawatra, is the sister of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was toppled in a military coup in 2006. Shiniwatra, who is Thailand's first female prime minister, one of its youngest ever at 45 years of age, and a graduate of Kentucky State University, leads the Pheu Thai Party founded by her brother.]


For most of the last century, American politicians used "fear" as a tool to sway voters. During the Cold War, fear of the Soviet Union, fear of communist Cuba, the Sandinistas and China worked miracles for Republicans. In fact, George Bush Jr. got elected twice by raising hell about Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda. In the aftermath of 9-11, a misplaced fear of a fictitious enemy resulted in the deaths of thousands of innocent people in Iraq and Afghanistan. Politicians in America have mastered the art of creating external enemies and threats to win elections. Politicians in many other countries use the same tactics. Around the world, the supposed existence of external enemies has become an integral part of the political game.

Posted by Worldmeets.US


Unfortunately, in Thailand, in addition to external threats, there are a good number enemies within. And every other month a new one emerges. Enemies from within a society are far more dangerous and destructive. Ongoing attempts by such actors to trample the will of the majority do nothing but trample on democracy. And as we saw in the 2010 military crackdown, this comes at a very heavy price - the death of innocent people on the streets.



Political corruption is another major problem in Thailand. It continues to be fuelled by the traditional patronage system and greased by huge amounts of cash. Just as it has been in other democracies, it is hard to tighten the regulatory screws on Thai politics, where just about everyone is in on the game. In any country, the elite, the powerful, and the privileged, will always hit back to protect their interests. To meet their goals, the votes of common men and women can be bought.


But there is no reason to despair. The power of the ballot can still be used to hold politicians accountable. At a time when powerful groups continue to threaten, there is reason to believe that grassroots changes in Thailand can apply some long-overdue leverage on those who use elections as a path to personal gain. As is evident from the red-shirt agitation, the poor and the disfranchised will continue to fight for their rights.


There are important lessons to be learned from the American elections. To begin with, Thai politicians need to work toward creating a democratic framework in which the losing side accepts defeat and allows the winning to side to pursue its economic agenda and policies. Instead of causing traffic jams, the losing side should put all of its effort into doing better in the next round.


All factions should refrain from acting like hooligans. This is not the way to win a game. Political hooliganism will only lead to added division, violence and bloodshed in the streets. This is also clear from the aftermath of the Arab Spring. It is not good politics when the losing side takes to the streets rather than accepts an election defeat, and when the winning side has to keep struggling to unite the nation. A constant tug of war among factions is an obstacle to bringing reconciliation and creating a more perfect union.



Global Times, China: Americans Have No Hope of 'Squeezing China Out of Myanmar'

Bangkok Post, Thailand: Obama Must Speak for Burma's Besieged Rohingya Minority

Bangkok Post, Thailand: U.S. Secret Service Startled by Thailand Lizards

Bangkok Post, Thailand: King Adulyadej Recieves President Obama

Bangkok Post, Thailand: Prime Minsuer Shinawatra Remains Coy on U.S.-Led Trade Pact

The Nation, Thailand Obama Should Press Shinawatra on Thai Human Rights


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Why does political chaos continue to exist in Thailand? It is clear from past trends that lower-income Thais tend to vote based on economic issues, while wealthier urban voters incorporate more social and cultural issues in their political calculations. Unfortunately, this is a trend that has lead to increased polarization in which a few individuals and groups tend to exploit traditional institutions for personal gain, such as the monarchy, for example. The so-called culture war between red, yellow and now the Pitak Siam, clearly reflects this tendency.


Full credit must be given to the Thai media, particularly TV stations, for enthusiastically covering the U.S. election. They should show the same vigor in dissecting and discussing the problems of Thai democracy.


Although not perfect, there is a lot to learn from America's elections, especially how to concede defeat and move on. Perhaps losing factions and opposition parties in Thailand should listen to Mitt Romney's concession speech for little inspiration.


*Dr. Kuldep Nagi is a Fulbright Fellow working at the Graduate School of eLearning (GSeL), Assumption University, Bangkok. He can be contacted at:

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[Posted by Worldmeets.US Nov. 20, 3:54pm]