Yingluck's win positive for Thailand
Newsclick Production/ 14-Jul-2011
Chanida Bamford from the Focus on The Global South, speaks on the election results in Thailand. The decisive victory for Yingluck Shinawatra's Pheu Thai party is a positive development for Thailand which has suffered autocratic rule in the near past, she says.
Srinivasan Ramani (SR): Hello and welcome to Newsclick. Last year, Newsclick has done a feature on the protests Red Shirt wearing demonstrators in Bangkok. These protests were contained by government led by Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva. Yet victory to the opposition for the recently held elections surely got to do with the support from the large sections of the opposition included by the red shirts for the opposition candidate Yingluck Shinawatra. We have with us Ms.Chanida Bamford Deputy Director of the Focus on The Global South with whom we shall discuss election results and more in Thailand. Welcome to Newsclick Ms. Chanida.
Chanida Bamford (CB): Hello.
SR: So the victory for Ms. Yingluck Shinawatra how much will you attribute it to the popularity of her brother former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra or do you think there is more to her popularity as a charismatic women then just a family heritage?
CB: I think it has a lot to do with her brother's popularity of course but she is also quite a new comer in terms of public image. It's a new but may be that's also one of the good thing because it's a fresh face in Thai politics. So that's another arrow for the popularity of the party.
SR: Tell us more about the Pheu Thai Party. What were their election promises, how did they distinguish themselves from the ruling democrats.
CB: In fact, the party's it's not much different from the democrats because they are offering also all kinds of freebies like a tablet for all high school students and an increase in minimum wage plus others. So in terms of policies all the other parties basically following this kind of populist policies. No virtual difference between for both these parties.
SR: What do you think the calling card for the Pheu Thai Party . What exactly was the reason for the last section of the population preferred over the opposition over the ruling party.
CB: Thaksin Shinawatra's party Thai Rak Thai party basically which was about ten years ago basically change the whole political parties in Thailand. Earlier before that the country was basically run by bureaucrats, government officials, technocrats and the political parties were only there to reap the benefit and create some kind of or making sure the whole machine runs based on bureaucrats and technocrats. When Thai Rak Thai came in, they really did the good homework so they were talking to people and finding out what they wanted so finally they had clear platforms, policy platforms the time you see health scheme, debt moratorium for farmers and one village fund. So when they got elected they delivered basically on these three policies which meant that all the bureaucrats and technocrats has to follow the policies of the political parties and the ruling party for the first time in history. So that really made the Thai Rak Thai party and Thaksin himself very popular. So in that sense, the Pheu Thai Party is now just carrying on with that kind of policies.
SR: During Thaksin Shinawatra's rule, the Thailand can also recover from the East Asian financial crisis in a better form. So the positive memories of Shinawatra's rule and that's why his sister reaped the profits of the good opinion of her brother. Right in that sense.
CB: I think it's more on the policies as well as the kind of nationalism that the party and the Thaksin Shinawatra has generated in fighting against the paying back and debt to IMF so that could be free and this kind of thing. So in that sense, that was then you know that's the legacy basically after Thai Rak Thai party. So once the Thai Rak Thai party dissolved and the other parties probably there are Probably that came after. I think it was still riding on the Thai policies and Thaksin's popularity al the way. But this time it was different. I think Pheu Thai has done a well planned campaign and good choice of the party leader. Even though, in legacy is the sister of Thaksin but as I said is a fresh face and she being a women, she had garnered more votes I think from other men and women but definitely something new and something to look forward to. To have a female Prime Minister makes every body feel a bit like OK we have come a long way along the route of democracy.
SR: Let's talk about red shirts. The red shirts protests last year was directed at the elites and their control over Thailand's political economy. How much do you think the issues concerning the red shirts that is equity, income, asset distribution, resource rise would be reflected in the new government's agenda.
CB: In fact, when the red shirts were doing this huge protests, they were doing this their demand was only one to dissolve the parliament because the government was not the legitimate because it was not an elected government. It was some kind of parliamentarian reshuffle so the democrat took the parliament after the after the coup and of course, the democrat then is identified everybody then identifies democrats with coup leaders because they were in opposition to Thaksin. So, There was only one demand. All these analysis on equities and stuff, it's an analysis how to make lot of people more sympathetic to Red Shirt's demands because they were pointing at double standards things have to be changed and the double standards between how government treated the Yellow Shirts and how Red Shirts got treated which was different.
SR: Definitely The red shirts managed to get a larger coalition behind them at least posturing that they were for equity so on and so forth.
CB: They were able to get a lot of support from the working class, the people in Bangkok who has actually come out to cheer out to enhance the protesting and I think, at that time there was a lot of sympathy and everybody wanted to see the protests ended peacefully and there was a lot of push for dialogue between the government and the Red Shirts because it didn't happened and instead there was force used and people were killed. I think some part of the population that was black market against democrats. I think Yingluck has got some sort of support moving in the camp because they wanted to see the change because we already hand government for number of years and you are not satisfied here is a chance to get some change and Yingluck got that to her credit.
SR: How would the yellows, what do you expect would be their reaction for the election results now.
CB: What people were worried about was if Pheu Thai was elected then the yellow shirt may come back to protest again but thankfully nothing was happened there and if you look at the Yellow, also going the different ways. Part of them were contesting as the small political party and others were boycotting. Basically, calling for more votes in this elections so there was already the split, that was clear. I think we can safely say now that the Yellow Shirts have lost the momentum. Now, people wanted to give the chance to Pheu Thai and Yingluck particularly.
SR: How about the army? The Generals before the elections seem to be bit hostile not openly but they made some statements that they would not prefer Yingluck coming to power for the fact that it is a democratic election and it is widely popularly seen as free and fair elections. How would the army respond to the election results in your opinion?
CB: I think, I have to reconcile with the fact that they are definitely not popular, unpopular. By any means, there would be very few who would support the coup now and the army definitely has lost the credibility in the past and of course, that's the good thing about this election that at least they have come to a certain army that to understand their role is not to kick out the government. But of course there are still question what exactly is their role in democracy and we hope some lessons have been learnt.
SR: I think we can end at that. Hopefully lessons have been learnt by the military and hopefully, they don't interfere in the democratic process yet again and hopefully, stability continues after this elections. Thank you so much for joining