Saturday, 17 December 2016

A real coup for Thai democracy, and UK-Thailand activity?

Khun Suranand Vejjajiva as always makes some fascinating points on Future Thailand in his article this week "PM big decisions on Cabinet revamp" in The Bangkok Post and the Road to Democracy through 2017:

Clearly few farangs including myself could sensibly comment on the detailed deliberations of Thai Cabinet politics, and the candidates for the Justice, Economy or Digital Economy roles.

But with an unelected PM, an economy in the doldrums, and an over-reliance on one economic sector plus deep-rooted societal divisions and ongoing military conflict there must be cause for concern.

But enough about Britain's problems.

While what about Kent must also be the cry from Surin to Satun?

For those problems in Britain, are similar to those here in Kent with British democracy throwing up strange anti-democratic sinecures such the Leader of Kent County being Tory (the UK political party sort of similar to nineteenth century yellowshirts) for all of the council's 100 years.

Thailand's celebrities may occasionally worship at a Mini-altar, but Kent's democracy is effectively parked for the duration.

There's a civil service gerrymandering revival of the Rotten Boroughs of old, with repeated boundary changes, or political excess of double-hatter politicians with the same person occupying multiple roles, also hollowing out democracy.

Democratic tweaks such as votes for 16 and 17 year olds are long-delayed as is the abolition of the Ruritanian pantomime of Lords Lieutenants as unelected royal show-ponies trotting around the shires soaking up tax and tea and biscuits.

As a candidate to "Stop the Pollution. Stop the Corruption. Stop the Construction" in Kent in 2017 I aim to resolve the above, and build on the success of my first two manifestos resulting in the closure of Manston airport and Infratil scandal, Richboro power station demolition and ending of the Gang of Four and Toxic Three political and civil service corruption, and lawyer corruption of Lord Grabiner of BHSGate and One Essex Court lawyer-fraud.

Certainly driving a stake through the cold, dead heart of Zombie Farageland, now and in the EU elections of 2019, is a worthwhile detour on the road to my MP campaign in 2020 - if not with elections held earlier given the Brexit omnishambles dragging into the New Year like Kent’s Dickens and his ghost of Xmas past.

And in my future ASEAN Envoy and DFID Minister roles to build better links with Thailand and ASEAN, it would certainly be wrong of me to advertise diverting funds to Thailand's no doubt booming future economy - although restoring the UK’s $20M aid budget to Cambodia would be a sensible tweak, along with full G20 0.7% aid targets.

It was interesting to see detailed in the Bangkok Post, reassuring plans for Thai-Cambodia cargo lorry links increased by 400% and road improvements which are perfect for UN-FAO SUN (Scaling Up Nutrition) programmes for Thai rice and Cambodian malnutrition.

The Red Cross in UK and Thailand are active – for the former I want to establish Ramsgate as an official Red Cross Town – but why should the public even with the generosity for Xmas, in Thailand or UK, have to donate to charity when the G20 represents 90% of trade and controls the main international banks through the World Bank.

It would be a minor Xmas present for the G20 nations to call into being their 0.7% aid targets each year and deploy then through the DEC NGO’s. Why bother with the fuss and delay of charity donations and collections?

Sadly, Britain now has an Empty Parliament, and Cabinet, noodling away on fripperies, and letting a whole generation sit under Kent's haystack drinking cider. If we don't invite the Dutch in again as in 1688 we could at least let Guy Verhofsdat have a go, perhaps the best Prime Minster Britain never had, so near yet so far away in Brussels.

The British disease of tea and biscuits and bumbling along has reached fever pitch.

A wider aim of my Meiji Kent campaign though is to develop UK-Thai relations. It's not that there is anything outrageously awful in links between the two nations, certainly the British Council Thailand is quietly diligent and excellent.

But surely links could be massively expanded for the benefit for both nations and ASEAN?

TDRI or other dynamic think tanks must surely be able to put an economic uplift to GDP on a range of activity between UK and Thailand?

UK for example could learn much from the Thailand 4.0 programmes - it's bizarre that UK has never had specific sector or market plans until recently. And still has no plans comparable to OTOP or 1155 Tourism Police or TRF or King Bhumibol Sufficiency Economy projects.

And Thailand should be aware that UK places Thailand in its top 5 growth markets along with Vietnam and Mexico so the political will is certainly there for greater activity this side of the English Channel.

But with a view from a hill here in Europe, surely Khun Suranand is right that PM Prayut could go down in history as the saviour of Thai democracy.
And I say that as no fan of military coups or dictatorships in any nation. Even the UK's nearest analogy, Kent's Duke of Wellington military success after Waterloo nearly drowned in political failure with riot and rebellion.

But PM Prayut as a former military man has exercised admirable restraint as well as a zeal for reform and improvement for the nation. Both in navigating Thailand through the choppy waters of colourshirt politics, feverish outpourings of Bangkok Shutdown, and the existential crisis of King Bhumibol's death as the world’s longest-reigning monarch and the only monarch most Thai people have ever known.

Britain may face similar crises with the end of Queen Elizabeth's reign, now the world's longest reigning monarch. Already Prince Charles' vision of a more Scandinavian-style monarchy slimmed-down monarchy with tax transparency and less emphasis on ceremony and Empire medals, is in conflict with Prince Andrew's aim of roles for his princesses.

And if as Khun Suranand says PM Prayut is able to jump down with the aplomb of an Olympic gymnast from riding the tiger's back of military intervention, then surely he must already be thinking of at least 7 issues beyond 2017?

1. With his military experience as Chief of Staff and political experience as PM, he must be uniquely able to balance the economic dislocation of coups and guide the next generation of military leaders in a democratic Thailand? The legacy of numerous coups through the twentieth century has dwindled to less than a handful in the last 30 years - surely PM Prayut could lead Thailand on the 2014 coup being the last of the 21st century?

2. Any military review of Thailand could benefit from the PM Prayut's pragmatic civil and military experience - Prayutism as a school of thought if you will - in reviewing the Thai military structures for internal and external defence. Issues such as conscription, or an army over 250,000 strong, or role of the Thai navy must be key? Certainly Thailand's Auld Enemy conflicts with Myanmar, as between England and Scotland, or the Deep South conflict as with Northern Ireland, are increasingly a thing of the past in 21st Century ASEAN but could benefit from UK dialogue and support?

Brexit has proved the worst UK foreign policy disaster since Suez, and only selling guns to the Gulf any sense of business as usual for Britain.
British politics has devolved into the vacuous TrousersGate of PM May's $2,000 leather trousers and fashion shoot and rivals handbags. A loose hand on the tiller of HMS Britain, and as foolish as Thailand’s HawaiiGate flights. Silliness on a par with the outlandish bloat of UK police fashions – and at least PM Prayut is exercising his tracksuit and sports kit of the health of the nation.

3. If Thailand has few-to-none enemies in ASEAN then it simply has none at all in Europe, so shouldn't a key feature of 2017, as with the US-ASEAN Summit in Rancho Mirage, be consideration of a series of State visits to EU and UK promoting democracy and the economy? And marshalling the issue of Yingluck rice reserves or Shinawatra exile seem less contentious than in 2014 with a Prayut version of rice welfare, and the ongoing strife in Cambodia and upheaval of the repeated exile of Sam Rainsy.

4. Rice welfare and Tourism could be key topics in themselves, as the main pillars of the Thai economy each worth about 10% of GDP, potentially leaving the Thai economy weaker than it should be through the lightning and thunder storms of flash-crash globalisation. Much as the UK economy is having to regear, from its over-emphasis on the City of London, and develop a manufacturing base beyond sandwiches and microwave meals. And as with the Brexit silliness of London, seeming another country to the rest of UK, and the Westminster Village of incestuous parliamentary twaddle such as TrewsGate is vacuous monkeying about worse than any Lopburi teaparty.

While with more Brits on the beaches in Thailand, than any other Western nation, or next year's mega-movie Dunkirk on Ramsgate's Little Ships. then surely UK-Thai tourism partnerships would be pushing against an open door and a simple way to expand Thai GDP?

5. Khun Suranand highlights the importance of Thailand's Foreign Office in Future Thailand beyond just the recent success of the G77 Chair - the UK has seen dynamic UK-Thai initiatives such as the Royal Mint coins and stamps, and a Team Thailand to extend Thai influence in the EU.

Shouldn't Team Thailand in UK and EU in 2017 include Team Prayut, Yingluck and Abhisit and Team Rama?

And on G77 Thailand as ASEAN lead in UN peacekeeping lead, to put it bluntly, the only Asian faces helping stop the carnage in Africa or the Middle East are Chinese. And Thailand's Red Cross can't be the only NGO active in ASEAN disaster crises?

6. Surely the issue of lese-majeste is due for review and open debate? Britain's Royals cope with far worse abuse than petty name-calling on Facebook. One unseemly part of Thailand since 2014 is using the lese-majeste laws as a political football although the recent royal pardons a positive step to the normalisation of democracy and show traits of the wise guiding hand of nation-building as King Bhumibol.

7. And couldn't Thailand-in-Europe do with translating its offering to UK and European audiences more consistently? One small example- the media storm around the two Hmong kids pickpocketing a watch from a British tourist at Doi Suthep temple in Chiang Mai.

A media storm that raged for days with full page articles and front page headlines - yet with no follow-up when the tourist found her watch and the kids hadn't stolen it.

The kids were just spending the afternoon with their mum after school while she finished her sewing at the temple. One huge example though, the lack of awareness and detailed understanding, beyond the disease of short-termism, in UK of say the 12 stars of tourism.

And the dynamic Tourism Minister Khun Kobkarn can't spend her days and nights showcasing every hispeed train to Chiang Mai or the rest of Thailand, nor Kent's dynamic Sports Minister Tracey Crouch - no relation to Peter, although she should be in the first team - playing permanent keepy-uppy to reform the FA and UK sports:

So, rather than a rocky road to democracy through 2017 and beyond, shouldn't some of the above points through the maelstrom of Cabinet changes, help fastforward a seamless transition to Future Thailand for both UK and Thailand?

Time for Change


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