Something interesting happening over there in Thailand Thailand will be having a general election this coming Sunday, July 3. This is Thailand’s first nationwide poll since Abhisit Vejjajiva became prime minister in December 2008. I have maintained a particular interest in Thai political affairs for over half a decade now. Thaksin Shinawatra, the Thai leader from 2001 until his ouster by a military coup in 2006 is a familiar name to some Filipinos, and for mixed reasons (as I mentioned in my previous post).
In the clearest indication yet of Thaksin’s enduring political clout, this year, his younger sister, the 44-year-old Yingluck Shinawatra, is the main opponent of Abhisit for the premiership. Pre-election surveys indicate that Yingluck’s party has a good chance of winning enough seats to make her Thailand’s first female prime minister. Unlike the Philippines, Thailand has a parliamentary form of government. The Thai media seems not to regard the fact that a female can actually lead a predominantly Buddhist country as important, or at least not as important as the fact that she is Thaksin’s sister.
Last June 13, Wassana Naunam of the Bangkok Post wrote an interesting news story with the subhead: “Army’s reassurances do little to comfort as Yingluck’s rise suggests Thaksin’s ouster pointless.” Here are some excerpts:
The military staged a coup on Sept 19, 2006 to overthrow Thaksin Shinawatra, Ms Yingluck’s elder brother. If Pheu Thai wins the election and former Prime Minister Thaksin returns to Thailand through an amnesty, the power seizure – in the view of those who engineered it – would be tantamount to a total waste… While several opinion polls show the popularity of Pheu Thai and Ms Yingluck is rising, political observers are keen to see how the military will react. (emphasis mine)
Thais are evidently anxious about the election results. If Abhisit manages to turn the tide to his favor and remain in power, most will probably see this as a repudiation of Thaksin and his allies. A Yingluck premiership promises to be more complicated. As mentioned in the news piece, her win would decisively show that most Thais are still on Thaksin’s side. This would put all of those who helped oust Thaksin in 2006 in an awkward position. All of their efforts to oust, prosecute, and banish Thaksin from the Thai political scene would go down the drain.
Filipinos’ lack of sense of history
I can’t help but compare it to what is happening in the Philippines. Filipinos have ousted two presidents through popular revolts, Ferdinand Marcos (in 1986) and Joseph Estrada (in 2001). But, lo and behold, Filipinos seems to have lost their sense of history. Estrada unsuccessfully sought to regain the presidency in last year’s polls – or less than three years after he was convicted of plunder. Over nine million Filipinos voted for him, ranking 2nd in a field of nine candidates. Nine million people wanted to have a convicted plunderer to be their president? Wow.
Marcos may have died in 1989, but in the years following the 1986 EDSA People Power, Marcos’ relatives had maintained their political power in northern Philippines. Last year, his wife Imelda won as district representative, while his daughter Imee became a provincial governor. Marcos’ son and namesake, Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr., for his part won a seat in the Philippine senate. Many are hyping the possibility of him running for president in 2016. Does this mean that the popular revolts of 1986 and 2001 have become “tantamount to a total waste,” too?