December 01, 2012 00:00
By Veena Thoopkrajae
Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has done it yet again: "Yinglucked" her way out of trouble. She survived the censure motion in Parliament and received a vote of confidence from the majority of the House. But is that enough?
Love her or hate her, we have to give credit when it is due. It takes something for a novice politician like her to keep a sweet smile on her face while being grilled in Parliament. It brought to my imagination the image of her starring in the lead role in a romantic comedy, an innocent premier in the same light as Bridget Jones, or Elle Wood from “Legally Blonde”, surrounded by politician wolves.
And I can understand if the public gives her support. Think, if the Parliamentary debate were a movie, she surely landed the role of an underdog. It is natural that we tend to root for the underdog. You may argue that it is not convincing that the prime minister should be one, but Yingluck is still a political novice who has no clue about in engaging in an argument. On the other hand, the opposition benches are filled with top dogs who revel in her incompetence and mistakes.
See, Yingluck is a natural fit for such a role: she doesn’t try to outsmart anyone and she relies heavily on her staff to hand her scripts to answer questions in debates. We have all seen the funny photos on the social media showing the minions hiding behind her chair and writing scripts for her.
Her scripted answers can’t really save her but if you look at her in the same light as Jones or Wood, you can just laugh along with the “script”. Ask her, “Have you anything to say about corruption in the rice price subsidy scheme?” and she shouts back, “My name is Pou and I’ll do my best for the country.” As a common joke goes, the opposition Democrats just don’t ask the right questions!
There are basically two ways a woman reacts when faced with trouble – argue until she drops dead, or kill the trouble with a sweet smile. Yingluck obviously chooses the latter. The wolves at the Democrat Party tried in vain in the Parliament to lambast her over the irregularities in the rice scheme and the budget for flood prevention. She hardly showed any urgency to counter those allegations. In fact, her smile and calmness almost convinced observers that she might not really understand at all how serious the allegations are, and that she was being grilled not only as the premier but also the chair of the rice scheme.
On the bright side, Yingluck is more confident and comfortable, but the major flaw is still that she is unable to answer any question in depth. Her longest speech, lasting almost an hour, was more like a promotion of government policy rather than an answer to allegations.
“Parliament The Movie” ended up with the premier “Yinglucking” her way out of it, but now that the curtain has closed on that act, she has to face another role, and in this one she might not get any sympathy as the underdog. She has to be accountable for the consequences of the government’s rice scheme. She can forget the Democrats’ allegations if she considers them as politicised issues. But she cannot ignore the warnings from leading academics including former central bank chairman Virabongsa Ramagkura, who is also seen as a government adviser, and former finance minister MR Pridiyathorn Devakula. Both have warned her government that the subsidy policy will cost Thailand dearly. Virabongsa bluntly pointed out that the policy should be immediately scrapped if the government wants to complete its term. He said it opened the door wide to corruption.
Post censure motion, with the public’s wellbeing involved, Yingluck is in the role of a powerful woman who could be soon transformed into a villain if she takes a wrong path. As well as the Democrat wolves, she is also surrounded by poor farmers and hard-pressed taxpayers who contribute their hard-earned money to subsidise the government’s mistakes.
As Yingluck sighed with relief after victory in the House, she should be aware that the underdog role could be coming to an end. Now she is poised to take the role of leading villain if she fails to do the right thing and prevent people from suffering.
We hope she will have a “Hollywood” moment and that she eventually becomes the heroine and save us from this policy, for her survival means Thailand’s survival.