Thailand at crossroads: Leaving Thaksin behind in his Dubai sandcastle

opinion March 19, 2014 00:00

By Kasit Piromya
Special to the

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For centuries, Thailand has successfully warded off threats to its sovereignty and territorial integrity as well as to its monarchy. These threats came from afar in the form of Western colonial expansion and ideologies such as Communism, and from within i

Over the past few decades a new challenge to Thailand’s cultural integrity has emerged in the form of the dominance of money and business over politics. This new threat has grown into the corporatism of a one-party authoritarianism flying populist colours in a democratic setting and striving by any means to gain electoral majorities.
But since the end of absolute monarchy in 1932, the goal and aspiration of the Thai people has always been to uphold the national ideals of nation, religion and monarchy within a representative democracy. Time and again the Thai people have shown this determination and have been willing to fight for their beliefs and their aspirations with rallies and marches, and even with their lives.
Thais have also become averse to military intervention and coups d’etat, in fact to all abuses of authority by self-interest and money-dominated politics.
Today, the Thai people have finally and firmly rejected the politics of the past, the politics of sweet temptations, of lies and spin, the politics of systemic corruption, the politics of a small clique of the powerful. 
The Thai people want to start their national politics anew. They want a politics in which power is shared, participation is more direct, their empowerment is prevalent, and resources and budget are more fairly distributed and balanced. The people now want to take national affairs more firmly into their own hands. They want more mastery over their destinies. They want to see their politicians and bureaucrats serve rather than abusing their power or turning to corruption.
Thailand thus stands at a very important juncture in its modern history. We are at a crossroads, poised to turn away from the old politics towards a politics of transparency, accountability and good governance; a politics of extensive participation and empowerment; a politics under the rule of law with moral and ethical standards as a way of life.
Thaksin with his cohorts and his Thaksinism – a political system of one-party dominance through autocratic authoritarian majority rule – are now things of the past.  For them to cling to their presumptuous hierarchy is nothing more than holding on to a failed status quo. Their stubborn self-promotion is reactionary and contrary to the progressive minds and contemporary political aspirations of Thailand. It is anachronistic: out of tune, out of touch and out of place.
Thaksin and his proxy government have lost the trust of the Thai populace. They are now considered illegitimate pretenders to power.  They have politely been asked to leave Thailand’s political stage.
In their last desperate attempts to continue in power, Thaksin and his proxy regime are cooking up more divisiveness within Thai society. They are falling back on the destructive tactic of promoting regional separation and even secession. This is a resort to treason. It is also belittling the intelligence of Thais and their love for one, unified country – Thailand. This is a shameless act and, indeed, even a stupid one. It also reflects the fact that Thaksin’s personal dominance over politics and Thaksinism are over and done with in Thai history. Such desperation implies acknowledgement of defeat.  It means the end of the status quo, of vested-interest politics.
Progressive forces are taking over. Thailand is not dithering at the crossroads but has decided determinedly to go the way of open, accountable and participatory politics.
After some 80 years of ups and downs, our democracy is about to come of age. Thailand can soon take pride in becoming a modern society at last. And Thaksin, with his passion for autocracy and authoritarian majority pretensions, can remain in his Dubai sandcastle.
Kasit Piromya is a former foreign minister of Thailand.