THAKSIN Shinawatra was right about one thing – Thailand needs change. Unfortunately, the rest of his rabble-rousing broadcast to his red-shirted supporters over the past few days failed to address the country’s real problem: Democracy, the one thing he now so desires, is always treated like a prostitute.
“We just want real democracy. Is that too much to ask?” he said over the weekend. Truth is, if Thaksin had understood what “real democracy” meant, he and Thailand would not have been in this situation in the first place. And, contrary to what most people believe, democracy is relatively easy to attain; the difficult part is how not to lose it.
Thaksin must have thought that after his landslide election victory in 2001, he had fully repaid democracy with his anti-drug war, the Bt30 healthcare scheme for all, the village fund and debt moratorium for farmers, and other programmes.
However, he must have also believed that what he had done gave him the right to screw the system. I’m popular with the poor so it’s all right to pull the plug on checks and balances. And since I introduced an unprecedented welfare scheme, it’s okay to cheat on taxes.
Of course, Thailand’s 1997 charter was one of the best, and democracy was apparently flourishing after its enactment. In fact, everything was so rosy during Thaksin’s early days that it afforded him the luxury to declare “Democracy is not my goal”. Confronted with growing inquiries about the way he got things done at the expense of democratic principles, he did not hesitate to compare democracy to a Rolls-Royce, which can be useless in certain circumstances.
He might have been right back then. A Rolls-Royce is not for everyone; it’s for perfectionists, because one screw loose and the vehicle can go off the road. In other words, while a dictator can pump money into rural areas and get away with a dozen extrajudicial killings and press intimidation, democracy doesn’t allow that kind of compensation.
Democracy is a delicate lady who requires high maintenance. An arrogant Thaksin took her for granted and abused her to the point where she was susceptible to the will of the wolves. Now, an angry, desperate Thaksin wants to go back to the woman he scorned. He even vows to fight to the death to repossess her.
He is simply using her again, and smartly so. I’m not doing this for me; I’m doing this for us. Look what they’ve done to you, those elites and military opportunists. I’ll make you whole again, and if that means I’ll have to die, then so be it.
The real motives are Bt76 billion in frozen assets and a jail sentence he wants overturned. Thaksin is not helping democracy; he wants democracy to help him. The best part is, if he succeeds, democracy will owe him a big debt of gratitude.
Thailand needs change, Thaksin insists. The country, he claims, must strive for a stronger democracy, like the one that gave the people cheap healthcare, low-interest loans and a successful anti-drug campaign. We used to be great together. Don’t tell me you don’t miss me.
That’s Thailand’s real problem: democracy is never really understood and it’s always taken for granted, even when there is nothing left to take for granted anymore.
Thaksin, in his darkest hours, still can’t see what went wrong in his relationship with this seemingly simple ideology. He is courting democracy again with the promise that things will return to the same old way before the royalists and generals took her away.
In fact, democracy is always strong, but she is cursed by an endless line of wimpy suitors. Her only problem is that she’s too accommodating and sometimes she gives people more chances than they deserve. She was gracious enough to ignore the “Democracy is not my goal” slur and endured other abuses. But would she take the ultimate insult and welcome back with open arms someone who until now still didn’t know her essence?
Real democracy isn’t something that is too much to ask. To the likes of Thaksin, real democracy is simply something that will be too much to take.
Did he understand what he was asking for? Real democracy would eliminate people like him first before she takes care of the other meddlesome parties.
She would have rejected him at the first “Hello”, and today he might have been nothing but a convicted fraudster instead of a self-romanticised fighter standing for something whose values he never understands.