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All it takes is democracy

Re: "Rice scheme must be de-politicised and tackled head on", Editorial, December 2.

The rice scheme is a political tool being used alongside other populist policies to gain the votes of the poor majority. Its failure has two aspects: it is the wrong approach and it was seeded with opportunities for corruption.

The scheme was supposed to give poor farmers a leg up. What it did was make them beggars at Thaksin's door. It should have improved education in the farming community and the production of higher-value rice and rice products to provide farmers a viable future.

In a recent letter in this column, Somsak Pola asked, "If Suthep knew the Shinawatra family was corrupt, why did the Democrats not do something about it while they were in power?" The answer is that, in a democracy, the police and the judicial system take care of such things. The Anti-Corruption Commission has thousands of cases on its books, but the judicial system operates in terms of years, not months or days. In a democracy, the ministries, police and army are staffed on merit and not by cronyism or political favour. Too much power to obstruct the system lies within a few individuals' remit.

The failure to stop the corruption in the rice price-pledging scheme was down to a bureaucracy cowed by fear of losing their jobs, or a "mai pen rai" attitude, corruption being the norm.

Blowing whistles was an appropriate tool for removing the current administration. The ministry staff should cultivate the same practice and be rewarded for it, instead of being moved on.

Richard Bowler

Bangkok


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