TV entertainment versus political engagement

your say March 23, 2018 01:00

Having approved a supplementary budget of Bt150 billion, the junta government is set to give massive handouts to villages nationwide – conveniently, just before the next election.

Much of this budget spending will likely suffer the same fate as funds recently earmarked for low-income earners and HIV/Aids patients, with whistle-blowing intern students uncovering the graft. 

It’s too easy to spend and waste public money that is not yours. And let’s face it, no future government will sue the junta for any economic losses, in stark contrast to the legal action taken against Yingluck Shinawatra.

So we have a junta government that is on the one hand promising an election in early 2019 after breaking several previous promises. And on the other hand, making an early start in canvassing for votes while at the same time banning all activities by its political rivals. Meanwhile, a handful of junta-allied big businesses are thriving and prospering, leaving the real engines of the economy – the SMEs – suffering and gasping for air. Chinese money is flowing into the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) to buy up land and resources, aided by local conglomerates and the junta-appointed “five rivers”, while most other provinces languish, unable to catch up with Bangkok’s growth. If these same policies were implemented by an elected government, it would be accused of selling out the nation. 

Judging by the junta’s behaviour, the good news is there will be an election. The bad news is it could be delayed repeatedly until it suits the military government. Crucially, what will Thais do if there is another election delay? Will they say “Enough is enough!” and take to the streets, armed with pitchforks and guillotines a la the French Revolution? Or will they stay home to watch Buppasanivas 2? Will today’s youth meet friends at Starbucks to discuss political matters and laws governing this country? Or will they post another sushi photo on Instagram? Will the voters give new and emerging parties such as the Future Forward Party (Anakhot Mai) a chance? Or will they continue to be disengaged, believing that politics is exclusively for phu yai (“big people”)? One way or another politics will take a bite at you. So start learning about it.

The bottom line: The junta and their allies will do whatever they want, however they want, and whenever they want until the public takes an active interest in politics. The biggest threat to democracy in the 21st century isn’t the junta, it’s public apathy.

The soap opera “Buppasaniwas” is set in 17th-century Ayutthaya, which in reality was sacked, looted and burned to the ground by Burmese invaders. Do not let Thailand be sacked again while we are busy watching television.

Edward Kitlertsirivatana