Jump to content

Thai Politics Is All Business As Usual - Literally


Recommended Posts


Thai politics is all business as usual - literally

By Suthichai Yoon

The Nation

First, I was asked why I displayed no noticeable excitement over the "major shake-up" in the Pheu Thai Party. Police General Kowit Watana was supposed to be the key figure to ensure that national reconciliation would finally take place.

Then, I was questioned why I wasn't surprised by the fact that the party "leader", Yongyuth Wichaidit, who had resigned a week earlier, was voted back in.

My conclusion has always been: The more things change, the more they remain the same. This is especially true with Thai politics. You raise your hopes at your own peril.

My optimistic friends have been pestering me with the question: Shouldn't we all be looking forward with great anticipation to a big leap forward in Thai politics? Perhaps, for the first time, we may see some genuine improvement in the quality of Thai politicians.

But my pessimistic friends have warned me: Once Thaksin Shinawatra starts talking peace, you had better be prepared for a new round of war.

Caught in between the two camps, I probably should look for signs of encouragement in the wake of this new talk about national reconciliation - which may lead to a new general election that will usher in a new era of democracy, leaving behind the ugly and depressing imposition of emergency decrees.

But I can't remain "neutral" while trying to retain my sanity. My discussions with a good number of the country's best-known "vote-getters" - who have successfully disguised themselves as the country's leading politicians - convinces me that the time to celebrate the arrival of a new era of representative democracy is still a long way off.

My research has confirmed that most Thai political parties, whether you like it or not, are "owned" by individuals. And believe it or not, most party "owners" are either banned from political activities or are living abroad fighting legal battles at home. For quite a few of them, the creation of a political party is nothing more than a business investment. The name of the game is to win enough seats in an election to bargain for sufficient Cabinet portfolios so that they can exercise political power to "earn" enough money to make a "profit" from the political venture.

Typically, a party owner looks upon the formation of a party as a capital venture. He may start by taking a loan from a bank (against his own land or personal guarantee as collateral) with a clear "business plan" that shows a very attractive "return on investment".

He then goes around picking promising candidates who could win seats for his party. His investment on each of the candidates depends on his or her potential to win enough votes to get a seat in the House. The electoral candidates in effect become the party owner's employees, who then vote and talk along the lines dictated by the boss.

Political scientists call it "party discipline" when they advocate a constitutional provision whereby MPs have to vote according to their party's policy. Investors who make money out of the business of politics call it the normal "corporate chain of command".

Strange though it may sound, the principles of ideal political theory and smart business investment practice somehow end up in the same place.

In a slightly different model of the "corporatisation of politics", the party's owner may enter into a "joint venture" with a few "shareholders" who finance their own bloc of candidates. With or without any formal agreement, the "major shareholder" and his "investment partners" split up the spoils once the election results are known.

The "financiers" get their "quota" of Cabinet portfolios in proportion to the size of investment of each shareholder. Ministerial portfolios are classified and graded according to the "potential business opportunities" for the Cabinet members.

"Grade A" portfolios such as the Interior, Communications, Industry or Commerce ministries offer the party owners the greatest opportunities to turn huge profits on their investments.

The party's big shareholders make sure that their MPs who become ministers squeeze and extort as much money as possible from their positions of power, through all possible corrupt means, to pay back the investments made on them during the election campaigns.

All these efforts to maximise profit must of course be conducted with flair and rhetoric that should convince the general public that such political joint ventures are aimed at promoting national interests, while in fact the top priority in these schemes is nothing more than making the highest return on the party owners' investment.

It will thus require a massive political earthquake and a series of violent aftershocks to convince me that there is light at the end of the tunnel. This means that I expect lots of bad news before we can really turn the corner. As a good Thai citizen, though, I shall hang in there and stick it out.


-- The Nation 2010-09-16

  • Like 2
Link to post
Share on other sites

Darn. Could you imagine if each party were listed on the stock exchange? Screw Google, Microsoft, and Apple! Thailand would have their own Berkshire Hathaway! It's almost like the title of this article, Thai Politics Is All Business. It truly is. Here are some similarities:

1) You could play the parties like real stocks: I'd 'short' Pheu Thai and 'long' the Democrats and retire tomorrow

2) They create their own markets and marketshare (government projects, contract sizes, etc.)

3) They make 30% per contract off their 'consumers'

4) They create the laws which would govern themselves

5) If they need more cash, they raise taxes or adjust import taxes

6) No need for overseas markets when they can just screw foreigners domestically

7) They have their hand in every single industry from telecom and transportation, to foreign exchange and insurance

8) They apparently pay very good dividends amongst themselves

9) If they don't like the 'directors' they kick them out of the country and take their money

10) Any protests or employee uprisings can be forcibly put down

11) You get paid to show up to shareholder meetings and rallies

12) If their stock goes bust, they just change the company name and move on

13) Black listed directors can return after only 5 years of banishment

And the list goes on and on.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
  • Create New...