Monday, May 12, 2014

Thailand: Update--Ousted PM Indicted for Failed Rice Subsidy Scheme, Potential for Civil War


According to The Washington Post, Thailand’s National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) on Thursday (May 8) indicted ousted Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, 46, on charges of dereliction of duty in overseeing a widely criticized rice subsidy program, a day after a court forced her from office.
 
The former PM was accused of allowing the rice program, a flagship policy of her administration, to proceed despite advice that it was potentially wasteful and prone to corruption. 
 
The NACC had little immediate consequence following Yingluck’s ouster from power a day earlier. Yet, it is likely to further poison a badly polarized political atmosphere. Many of the former PM's supporters already believe that the country’s conservative establishment is bending the rules to take back power.
 
Rallies planned by Yingluck’s opponents for Friday (May 9) and her supporters for Saturday (May 10) will be a test of the country's political viability.
 
The government lost billions of dollars on the rice subsidy plan, which also cost Thailand its coveted position as the world’s leading rice exporter, as the artificially high prices forced the government to stockpile the commodity.
 
COMMENT: It is an understatement that Thailand is undergoing a formidable challenge at this point in its contemporary history that may well forecast its future in the years ahead.
 
One issue that I do find puzzling is why the Thai military has not stepped in by now to prevent the further dissipation of this tormented, fractured nation.
 
One can only hope that before both sides potentially see a civil war unfold, that the military will step in and restore order. If not, the notion of a central government returning the country into its former self could be in jeopardy.
 
As someone who has spent some six years observing political events in the Land of Smiles unfold over a 35-year period, and as a person who has made periodic visits to Thailand, I am stunned by the fact that parties on opposing side of the political spectrum are so inflexible and fail to have a "win-win" strategy. Yet, power does corrupt.
 
Yet, inflexibility seems to be contagious all over these days, particularly in Washington. I guess it is the new "normal" in an abnormal world.

With ousted PM Yingluck Shinawantra very much out in the cold and likely facing indictment on the failed rice scandal, it is my forecast that Thailand's future is potentially likely to worsen.
 
The above statement applies largely from the standpoint of normal commerce being conducted; potential violent protests can also be expected to occur.
 
For those that have the option of leaving Thailand for a few months, that would be my suggestion, as the country is "on the ropes" politically, economically and culturally.

Unfortunately, Thais have the capacity to react violently and unpredictably.

If I were a tourist, I would consider traveling to another country that is much more politically stable and one that may offer similar touristy options. Examples that come to mind include Australia, Taiwan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Japan and South Korea and the Philippines, although travelers must always be on their guard, as there are "no" safe countries.
 
For residents and expats who are unable to leave, I urge both groups to prepare for the worst, stockpile drinking water and nonperishable food and fill bathtubs with water so that it can be used for cooking.