Statement on Abhisit Visit to Oxford

March 12, 2009

On 6 March I wrote an email to the president of St John’s College, Oxford, regarding the visit of the Thai prime minister, who is scheduled to give a talk on the ‘challenges of democracy’ on 14 March. In it, I expressed concern that Prime Minister Abhisit was perhaps not the most appropriate person to speak on this topic given the way his government had come to power in Thailand and given that the last few years in Thailand have been characterised by often violent social conflict, military coups, judicial activism, and the use of various laws for purely politicl purposes.

This email was leaked to the Thai website Prachatai. It was subsequently linked to from the New Manadala website run out of the Australian National University. It was then picked up by The Nation, one of Thailand’s English-language dailies. Today, I discovered that the main opposition party, Puea Thai, had called a press conference to draw attention to my email in order to discredit Mr Ahbisit and his government.

I wish to make a statement about these events. The most important point is this: the email was written in haste, quickly; it was also private, a brief communication to a colleague within my own University. Consequently, the email is extremely short and rather crude in its presentation of the situation, and it contains rhetorical exaggerations. This is because it was never intended to be a public statement of my views on Thai politics. I did not sanction the release of this email to the media. I stress that it was leaked without my permission. It is now being used for purposes which I had never intended and do not endorse. It was never my intention in writing the email to supply ammunition to the Puea Thai Party or to publicly attack Mr Abhisit or his government. Those who are using this email to do this are doing so unscrupulously and without my consent. Note: I would like to make it quite clear that the email was not leaked by Sir Michael Scholar or his office.

None of these facts is being noted in the coverage of this “letter” in the Thai media. Consequently, I have received some angry emails denouncing me and criticising my lack of understanding of Thai politics. Of course, people are entitled to their opinions. However, it is unfair to judge a person on the basis of a private communication that was subsequently made public by third parties. A three-paragraph email, written in haste and in private, is clearly in no way going to reflect the rigour and care with which I conduct my academic research. That research is available online elsewhere and people can judge its standard for themselves. It also clearly will not reflect the nuances of my actual thoughts about Thai politics over the last three years. I defy anyone to be able to present a complete and undisputable precis of the national politics of any country over three years in three paragraphs.

Let me make just one thing quite clear about the intent of that email: I was not calling for Mr Abhisit to be disinvited from speaking at Oxford. I recognise that some individuals would like this to happen. I disagree. I believe the best way to defeat someone with whom you disagree is to encourage and engage in free and open debate, without any restrictions at all. I do not endorse any restrictions on free speech or academic freedom. I am on record as defending academics (including, ironically, a professor at St John’s college) from calls for them to be stripped of their posts as a result of their political views, despite the fact that I profoundly disagree with those views. I am also on record as denouncing ‘no platform’ policies which seek to deny the right of extremists to voice their political opinions. Furthermore, I have attacked attempts to restrict the right of free protest of a political movement whose activities are directly opposed to my own. I regret that my email gives the impression that I wished Mr Abhisit to be barred from speaking. But then, as I have said, my email was not intended for public consumption and was thus not an accurate or complete reflection of my views.

I do not intend to expound my views on Thai politics at any length here. All I wish to say is that I am far from alone in voicing concerns about the situation in Thailand. The forces behind the Thai coup of 2006 have been considered in great depth and with fine academic rigour by a group of leading scholars in a special edition of the Journal of Contemporary Asia. The so-called “judicial coup” against the People’s Power Party government has been documented at length elsewhere, as have the violent struggles of the so-called People’s Alliance for Democracy on the streets of Bangkok, and the deal by which the Abhisit government came to power with fraction of the Thai oligarchy led by Newin Chidchob. The use of lese majeste against the political enemies of particular forces at work in Thai politics has spawned an international campaign for the reform of these laws. BBC reporter Jonathan Head, who wrote the just-cited report on the Ahbisit-Newin deal, has been targeted with three lese majeste complaints. The use of lese majeste has extended to journalists, novellists, and academics, Thai and foreign, and now exercises a chilling effect on free speech and academic freedom in Thailand. Journalists report harrassment in their work, indicating clear limitations to press freedom, while critical websites have been closed down or raided, despite the government’s pledges to defend press freedom. Access in Thailand to foreign websites making critical remarks about Thai politics is frequently blocked. The Abhisit government’s treatment of Rohingya refugees has been widely criticised of late by humanitarian groups, with the UNHCR calling for a full investigation. The existence of significant numbers of political prisoners in Thailand is a matter of record.

None of this means that the Thaksin or Samak governments were perfect paragons of liberal democracy; they most certainly were not, and in my research I am quite clear about what forces these governments represented and what they got up to. Again, this has already been made quite plain by leading scholars of Thai politics including Pasuk Phongpaichit and Chris Baker in their book, Thaksin: The Business of Politics in Thailand and Duncan McCargo in his book, The Thaksinization of Thailand. The failings of these governments include widespread corruption, violations of human rights including Mr Thaksin’s ‘war on drugs’, and the escalation of the conflict in Thailand’s south. This is all well documented and I am not, as some people suggest, ignorant of any of these facts. Nor am I, as one correspondent absurdly suggested, “part of ex-PM, Thaksin Shinawatra’s propaganda machine to discredit Thailand”. To see all criticism with which you disagree with as necessarily part of some grand conspiracy is frankly very silly indeed.

The difference between the TRT and the PPP governments and the present government is that they simply represent different constellations of forces in Thai society. The TRT and PPP and their successor incarnations represent big business interests, but at least made a serious effort to reach out to the rural poor by offering populist welfare measures; this explains their consistent electoral success. Research by a Thai scholar indicates that, despite the undeniable absorption of many unscrupulous political parties, local oligarchs and political bosses, and the use of money politics, rural Thais are not simple dupes whose votes were merely bought or coerced, but rational individuals who voted for parties that they believed would advance their interests. By contrast, crudely speaking, the Democrat Party represents a section of the Thai south and, mainly the urban middle classes, who are clearly outnumbered by the rural poor. Its relative estrangement from the masses provides it with less popular support, such that it consistently lost elections to the TRT and PPP. This is why the Democrats have had to rely on Mr Newin’s faction in order to form a government.

The concerns highlighted in my email, then, although hurriedly and crudely expressed and not intended for public consumption or to express anything like a nuanced viewpoint or academic statement, do not reflect total ignorance of the situation in Thailand. I cannot claim to be an expert on Thai politics, although I did conduct field research there just last year. But I do closely follow Thai politics and the work of those directly engaged in it, both as practitioners and scholars. My email thus expressed, however imprecisely, the concerns and insights already raised by leading scholars of Thailand, academics, journalists, activists, NGOs and others.

There are legitimate disagreements to be had about these issues, which are likely to revolve around how much emphasis is placed on different factors, exactly who was involved in particular events, and so on. There is much that remains opaque even to leading scholars of Thailand. There will also be disagreement about whether some of the foregoing is true or not on a partisan basis, which is only natural. The sheer intensity of social conflict in Thailand at present and the profound and deep division the last few years have created in Thai society is readily apparent and gives rise to very passionate disputes and reactions.

In response to the irresponsible leaking and circulation of my private correspondence, I have received one or two abusive emails. I have also had emails expressing passionate and partisan – but polite – disagreement. I have also received some emails expressing partisan but highly detailed, nuanced and erudite disagreements, which I appreciated very deeply. However, it is interesting that a large majority of emails I have received have been positive and in agreement with my remarks. Most of the people writing these emails also state that they lack the freedom to speak out against their own government and express fears of reprisals. This is a matter for deep regret in my eyes. Thailand is a wonderful country which I have visited for long periods several times over the last eight years. Despite what some people say, I do not hate Thailand, the king, Thai people, Thai culture, or anything else about Thailand. I only hate oppression in all its guises – social, economic and political.

28 Comments to "Statement on Abhisit Visit to Oxford"

  1. Red and White wrote:

    Mr Jones,
    Thanks for clarifying the situation and once again, I look forward to reading more of your thoughts in future.
    Greg

  2. Anonymous wrote:

    Having lived here for 6 years – I can say – Thailand is not important to anyone other than Thais – they have had 700 years of self-rule, they proudly state they never been colonized – but still they are on the bottom 50% of wealthy countries in the world – Israel, Singapore, Canada & US all young countries compared to Thailand, but are so much wealthier – must ask what is wrong with Thai society & culture that it accepts poverty for its people?

  3. Anonymous wrote:

    FYI, the email was published in full by the Nation on its website (although I understand its posting in full was an editorial mistake): https://genweb.nationmultimedia.com/news/content_view.php?newsid=30097786

    What you said in the email is correct of course. Everyone knows it; even the Thais. It is a shame but the unspeakable truth is that Abhisit wanted power so much that he did a deal with the army. So, when you indicate in your email that Abhisit is a democratic hypocrite you are spot on.

    Another unspeakable, of course, is that this is a political holding position – and one that is designed to consolidate power – until the real political and social problems begin in Thailand when the king dies. In the aftermath of this, maybe – maybe – democracy will emerge. But for this to happen a class and political struggle will have to have been fought and won.

  4. Les Abbey wrote:

    I guess the problem for many is whether to follow Giles and the marxists and say that the PAD is a proto-fascist organization, or to believe that it is, or can be a legitimate extra-parliamentary opposition against a corrupt Berlusconi-like politician supported by the old political godfathers.

    The suspicion for people like me is whether Taksin’s wealth and PR machine is influencing some of the independent reporting and opinions. For those supporting his return and the reinstatement of the TRT and PPP expect some of the smell of politicians like Chalerm and even Newin to rub off on you.

  5. Anonymous wrote:

    Dear Mr. Jones, I do understand your point and agree with you. However, I am one of many people who is neither PAD nor Thaksin supporter and think that P.M. Abhisit brings positive atmosphere to our country. We all want democracy, but many people are still uneducated and let bad politicians mislead them (I might say that corruption have hold us back – like other ASEAN countries). In my opinion, having Abhisit as Thai P.M. was the best solution then, or else we would never have peace. I think whenever the majority of Thai people are educated and learn about how to use their rights properly, Thailand will have practical democracy. It’s sorry but true.

    PS – I’m Thai who lives in Thailand. I want to express more opinions clearly but I’m not very good at English. I hope foreigner understand the difference of our country.

  6. Somboon wrote:

    Les: Giles is a Marxist? Or did I misread you?
    What strikes me about a lot of the debate is that people seem to have forgotten that politics is “the art of the possible”. Political theory may be the preserve of the idealist, but political practice, particularly in Thailand, is generally the province of the corrupt, cynical and utterly self-referential sociopath.
    Never mind what system you would ideally like to have. The question is: What system and which players can you realistically expect, and which of them seems least distasteful?
    Here’s your choice:
    1. Sondhi and the Plutocrats Against Democracy, with their dream of a Burma-style government.
    2. Peua Thai, most likely headed by Chalerm, with his sons installed, respectively as Ministers of Bullying, Murder and Getting Away with it.
    3. The Democrats/Newin.
    Well at least Abhisit is good-looking and polite.

  7. tarostra wrote:

    Mr Jones

    You do not touch on how and why your personal email addressed directly to the President of St. John’s could have been leaked to the press. Are we to assume that Sir Michael or maybe his personal secretary maliciously leaked your email to the Prachathai website? Or is it possible that you yourself sent it to other colleagues or friends who either support Thaksin or oppose the Thai elite for other political and socio-economic justice reasons? If so, then you have been naive

    It is a little hard to accept your protestations of innocence when neither the recipient of the email seems to have no particular reason to inform this local website.

    You’ll no doubt be interested to know that in the two Bangkok taxis I got yesterday your email letter was being discussed actively on pro-Thaksin websites. You’re a folk hero among the red shirts here!

    Coming from the UK I am surprised that you feel that it is undemocratic for a coalition that has the support of the majority of MPs in Parliament to form the Government. The same would be the case in Britain if enough of Brown’s MPs joined the opposition and removed his majority.

    I agree entirely on the need to remove or reform the lese majeste law here. The monarchy can survive as in the UK without such protection. However, I recall that the loudest current proponents of changes to this law (Giles Ungpakorn commendably excepted) did not even whimper when Thaksin was closing down community radio stations, inciting the deaths of opposition laywers and slamming critical journalists with GBP 10 million libel lawsuits.

    Freedom of speech does exist in Thailand (the fact that your letter is being read and discussed widely in the media reflects that) but like all countries, human rights can be improved. The distribution of wealth could be improved too – maybe that would be a far better issue on which to criticise than on this relatively minor one which is being used as an international weapon of criticim by Thaksin’s corrupt friends

  8. phd student in uk wrote:

    Dear Mr. Jones,

    I understand you and your situation regarding your statement explaining that your personal email has leaked and now spreading in the public without your consent. Furthermore,I understand that in democracy you can speak freely, talk about what ever you like to talk without insult other people. Consequently, it is democratic that you can oppose to Thai PM Aphisit’s speech due to you doubt in his government initiated in term of liberal democracy.

    In your paragraph referring to other scholars’ research, at least it make you understand the practice of Thailand democracy – where and how the democracy comes from. I would like to confirm that votes are still bought especially in the areas of the north and northeast where I come from and its price will be higher and higher . There’s no dobt that why TRT or PPP can mostly occupied these two areas which have most representatives due to the numbers of population. This sequently led them to form the government in past 3 elections. Democrate Party hadly come up to that point as they occupy only the southern part of Thailand which votes can not be bought, and middle class people in Bangkok and some provinces surrounded.

    You might realize or might not if you are too naive that you become the weapon (victim) of the former Thai PM who run away from his fraud, corrupt and guilty and his supporters to be used to attack Thailand and the present government. I would like to add in this point out that money is so much powerful. It can not just buy only people or even people around you, it can buy stone to work for you. Sometimes experience is very valuable that can give us good lessons to learn.

    Wish you have learnt from this widespread dispute and wish you still love our country as well as Thais. And on behalf of Thai people, you are still welcome to visit our country – the land of smiles.

  9. Anonymous wrote:

    Have you lived in Thailand for an extended period? If not, then I suggest that you are not in a position to write such detailed specific opinions about the Thai situation.

    You say that people have told you they are frightened to discuss your e-mail for fear of reprisals. This is a strong statement and I suggest to you that this is not correct and in fact is an untruth written deliberately by people who are out to cause trouble, and who have no ethics or morals. PM Abhisit, on taking office, quickly make it very clear that he would not restrict freedom of the press or freedom of speech. As an example you might like to research what happened quickly under PM ABhisit with NBT.

    You also state a specific negative about PM Abhisits treatment of the Rohingan minority group (excuse the spelling). Although there is absolutely no excuse for what seems to have happened, the incidents which sparked attention happened just after PM Abhisit took office, and the methods used (if the reporsts are correct, they are still under invetigation) by the police and the military followed precedents set during the Thaksin and previous governments. I say again that is not an excuse.

    Your statement that your initial e-mail was written in haste holds no water at all. Further, the comments by another poster querying how your initial was released, when it was sent only to your colleagues, also smells.

  10. Nicky wrote:

    The personal e-mail from you to your College President leaked out.

    My e-mails never leak out. Your e-mail leaks almost straight into the hand of Pheu Thai…. I can guarantee you that your credibility just slipped down the drain. Good buy career.

    In my case personal e-mails reflect my real thoughts. That’s why you call it personal i guess.

  11. Stan wrote:

    Mr. Jones:

    I appreciate your added commentary and understand your being distraught at these being private comments. A couple of things do come to mind though. I am deeply puzzled that you privately hold the view that the current government came to power with anything other than a legal right. I spent most of my life in a parliamentary democracy, Canada and on a number of occasions minority governments were over thrown and the governor general asked a second party to try and form a coalition. Another approach is a vote of No Confidence which can also create a situation where a government falls. The Thai Democrat Party was able to convince members of the ruling coaltion to change sides and to me that is democracy at work, not pretty but very effective. I have lived and worked in Thailand for the past six years and though Thai politics is at times testy to say the least, the current prime minister has started off on good footing in my opinion and to hear his views on the challenges, as we know there are many, of democracy would be educational for all. We in the west often seem to think we have dibs on democracy but watching democracy work in a different culture is truely enlightening.

    A final thought, if you don’t want people to read communication, don’t write it down.

    Best Wishes
    Stan

  12. Anonymous wrote:

    Mr. Jones,

    I agree with you although no one feels good if somebody says a bad thing to the state that they belong. Because look from your point of view, you have the right to tell your thought against the things you do not agree which will happen in the place you belong as well, Oxford University.
    I used to proud in the state that never been colony and live in the King state but now I learn to proud myself. I accept that many people in Thailand have not get a good opportunity to educate in a good university but I’m not agree that the high educate by a well- know University will can teach people to understand clearly democracy, at least in practical. Abhisit is a good example; he is from Oxford, the same as your teaching place but never do things support democracy in Thailand. People here are learning democracy themselves even if they might never educate in a long history university. They are understand that democracy will allows them to freedom they think and express, bring justice, with equal right under the constitution that write up by people referendum.

    I do a shame on the government, the prime minister, and I hope one day when Thai people proud themselves, we will get democracy, we will understand more ourselves, we will know that who we are, where we from, what we do, and people like you will be interesting to study in my proud country in the Thai famous University.

  13. Anonymous wrote:

    Dear Mr.Jones:

    Whatever your intension is, the content and words of your leaked email satisfied the majority of the Thais in regard to PM Abhisit’s visit to Oxford. Those who favor autocratic to democratic government, represented by the PAD, like someone posted here, enjoyed their benefits from the monarchy-bureaucratic conservative systems, but those grassroots would favor democracy in Thakin style of policies. It was termed the democracy that you can “eat”. As for Thailand in the near future, Democracy has already been a true belief of the majority recently, those who beleive that Thailand should accept democracy when the majority of the Thais receive their colleges degrees, are wrong and should have no place to stand in our new Thailand after this chaos. The PAD should join the world of Loise XVI and Maria Antuanette last century. Bill Samson in Bangkok.

  14. Anonymous wrote:

    I had a company in thailand for 15 years.We used to work with the rural people especially in Thaksin strongholds and understand them very well.They used to vote for their local party whose leader is
    rich and no matter how he became rich,they follow him (that is the thai way,this also implies money for voting obviously).Corruption is everywhere,it is a way of life, from low-paid policemen to whom I have myself given money without any
    document in return for traffic violation to local government bureaucrats.What you need is good connection and you can solve any problem. These rich/powerful – poor rural people relation exists
    everywhere in the countryside…it does not need to be a Bangkok – countryside problem.
    Then, what has happened? One day, one powerful family(originally from the countryside) represented
    by a very rich dictatorial member cleverly understood that to be able to reach absolute power he needed to unite (or should I say”BUY”) all these regional/rural
    leaders into a well marketed new
    structure with strong image/appeal
    (Thai love thais…the name of the structure… when I heard that even before this party came to power, I thought that a dictator was born). Coming to power, he immediately changed the way every
    government office works (he would
    become the CEO and local governors,ambassadors would become his staff and he would evaluate himself their “performance” according to his guidelines).Since
    he became a one-man-show, you could read almost everyday in the newspaper that regulations,etc will
    change concerning almost anything in people’s daily life. He was quick to enact laws favorising his
    business partners and resorted to anything to be popular (even organizing an event for taxi drivers with lottery prizes (houses
    if I remember well)so the taxi drivers became his most fervent supporters. Also a reality show on the Tv (showing him driving a motorbike in the countryside and handing money from his pocket to some people),also organizing a high casualty war of drugs with
    a lot of people wrongly put on the list..A dictator was born and quickly he try to control every media (his family purchasing the only private TV company before he was elected). He had unlimited money with a lot of it suspiciously channeled and invested
    abroad. He was controlling the Senate (big money changing hands) and the military (his cousin appointed head),the police(family affair) and finally the judiciary.
    He was even accused of occupying the traditional king position at a temple)and changing the Constitution..No need to say that nobody in the countryside would dare criticising Thaksin where I
    work in the countryside. You just cannot criticize the rich and the powerful in the countryside(in Bangkok,you may do it)
    So, what could save Thailand? Was it Democracy?
    Another dictator, the King which can still unite people or what?
    That is the question I would like to ask you and I will be very interested in reading your reply.

  15. David in Thailand wrote:

    Oh very clever. Do you realise that people in Thailand are now using your climbdown as evidence that you support the Abhisit government.

    Why not stick to your guns? Democracy in Thailand has been laid to waste and needs support from outside which has been sorely lacking. The British government in particular is guilty of washing its hands of the case.

    I am in Thailand and have been watching events closely over the years. Thaksin was never squeaky clean but the present government is the most cynically corrupt one for a long time. With the backing of the military (too inept and scared to take power again itself) these groups lied and cheated and agitated and killed until an opposition government was installed without election.

    Thaksin himself is too pusillanimous to come back and fight the cause himself, so people like you are needed to come down heavily and publically on the evil element in Thailand. Every day I read the news here I see more evidence of an unelected government taking a tighter grip.

    The UK government and people are obviously unaware of the real causes behind Thaksin’s flight. The revokation of Thaksin’s visa is a national shame and embarrassment to the UK. To allow Abhisit to talk on freedom at Oxford is a sick and tragic misfortune – rather like inviting Robert Mugabe.

    I am sorry to have read your politically-correct, lily-livered, climbdown today. You have done Thailand and it’s politically impoverished majority no favours.

  16. Anonymous wrote:

    Perhaps this is a good example of why one should never write emails or letters in haste. Always wait before sending them. Never write anything in emails that you do not want made public. Even your friend may reveal the content or someone else may have access to the email client.

    Other than that, I am personally very pleased with Abhisit’s performance so far, we appear to be seeing some stability on the Thai political arena.

  17. Anonymous wrote:

    Mr. Jones,

    Who are you to ask us to read your statement (excuse) first before we criticize your comment about our PM, when you yourself never ever try to listen to the other side of the stories other than those from your friends. Franky I don’t believe your letter was leaked unintentionally, it was YOU and your so called FRIEND who let the accusation leak to embarass our prime minister. SHAME ON YOU.

    I am just a Thai who is neither yellow or red or white and I am so tired of other people in other country trying to express their INNOCENT or should I say IDIOTIC view concerning my country.

    jo

  18. Anonymous wrote:

    “written in haste, quickly and in private” on such an important, hotly-debated issue?

    1)schoolboy error
    2)mincing your words
    3)from an outsider who has never lived in Thailand for a reasonable period of time.

    WHO are you to talk?

  19. Lee wrote:

    I’ll respond to a few comments/ accusations, abusive remarks, etc, in a single reply.

    1. You are wrong/ idiotic/ stupid/ don’t know anything about Thailand, etc.

    Most of these accusations tend to be rather content-free, i.e., rather than taking issue with specific points I make, they just attack me personally. They are therefore unreasoned, ad hominem attacks. The basic point, however, is that if I am wrong/ stupid/ ignorant, then so is everyone else who agrees with me (i.e., the vast majority of people who have written to me about this), many of whom do in fact live in Thailand, etc, and thus do not suffer from the shortcomings I am supposed to.

    2. Is PAD proto-fascist, or a legitimate extra-parliamentary opposition?

    Interesting question. In general, I think it is legitimate to organise politically in an extra-parliamentary fashion. However, such movements have to be judged on their own merits. I would want to do proper field research (or see someone else’s) to really judge whether the PAD were proto-fascist. My suspicion, based on publicly available sources and some communications from PAD members, is that they are a broad church. The PAD likely contains blatant opportunists with no regard for democracy; frustrated liberals – including some NGO types – who desperately want fellow liberals in power and for Thai politics to be cleaned up and are prepared to countenance anti-democratic means to achieve this; and a variety of elements who join for other reasons, such as anti-government grievances or just for an opportunity to create unrest. I would like to see much more research on the PAD and the UDD.

    3. Abhisit is good, or at least good-looking and polite.

    Various people, even acknowledging how the Abhisit government came to power, are nonetheless glad. They have some sort of affinity to position (b) described above, i.e., they think that even if Abhisit came to power through dodgy means, he’s at least a liberal at heart and will do his best to improve the country. I believe that how a government comes to power does matter. First, because undemocratic means are not legitimate. Second, because acquiring power undemocratically makes one beholden to the forces who allowed you to seize power, rather than to the people more generally. For instance, personally, Abhisit probably finds the abuse of Rohingya refugees distasteful – but is he in any position to stop it?

    4. You deliberately leaked the email for political purposes.

    Utter rubbish.

    5. The Abhisit government coming to power is the same as changes in coalition formations in Canada or any other democratic country.

    This only works if you abstract completely from reality, i.e., if you ignore the massive social unrest in Bangkok, the “judicial coup”, the army’s insistence on the government resigning, etc. A proper analysis requires that you look at the totality of social and political conflict, not just at which parties are in a coalition and whether coalitional realignments are formally constitutional or not.

    6. TRT/PPP/PT simply buy votes and recreate the patron-client relationship.

    While there is lots of evidence to show how TRT formed by absorbing various local clientelist networks and parties, and so on, there is also good evidence of how TRT organised itself as a modern political party, using scientific polling methods and political marketing techniques in order to build a broad base of support, in a way similar to the strategies of Western parties.

    As I said in the post, there is good evidence, from a study carried out by a Thai scholar, that farmers voted for TRT/PPP because they appreciated their policies. When I was last in Thailand I interviewed a top Democrat MP, who admitted the Democrats had done “absolutely nothing” for the poor in the northeast when they were in government in 1997-2001, concentrating their patronage resources on their southern base. In fact, he said the Democrats had used “police brutality” and were “crude and in fact quite

  20. Anonymous wrote:

    It ‘accidentally’ leaked out – how believable! Is this some sort of marketing Mr. Jones?

  21. Anonymous wrote:

    Your response is full of excuses… You’re a child and should not be allowed to comment on such matters.
    Allow me to exercise my right to free speech and say, ‘You, Boy, are a P^$$%’

    On a positive note, Abhisit is doing a great job and well done defending the attacks of the JI operative at Oxford.

    Freedom of speech is alive and well in Thailand

  22. A Thai who knows English a bit wrote:

    from your sentences:

    I am wrong/ stupid/ ignorant, then so is everyone else who agrees with me (i.e., the vast majority of people who have written to me about this), many of whom do in fact live in Thailand, etc, and thus do not suffer from the shortcomings I am supposed to.

    This shows how good logic you have, which I can say that it is pretty poor. This is not ironic or haste. The word “pretty poor” has been considered carefully before written.

    The number does not proof whether it is yes or no. If one said ‘no’, while the others said ‘yes’, it is ‘yes’ in democracy, but it may not be ‘yes’ in truth. Galileo is a good example. I recommend you to read “Philosophy of Science: The Central Issues”, in case you do not understand it.

    I suggest that you should show how much knowledge you have about Thai democratic history, how much you did study on Thailand, or how smart you are. It will be better than the ‘majority’ email.

    Unfortunately, this is your first answer. Then the other answers seem to be compromised by the first one.

  23. tum|bler wrote:

    Dear “A Thai who knows English a bit”

    I believe that here Mr Jones wasn’t claiming he was right because the majority agreed with him, but he was responding to the criticism that he never had a lengthy stay in Thailand before. Basically he was saying that there were people living in Thailand who also agreed with him. Whether that represents the majority view is irrelevant to this discussion.

  24. tum|bler wrote:

    Anonymous said: “Freedom of speech is alive and well in Thailand.”

    And people are being arrested and face up to 15 years in jail for writing a book and not standing for an anthem?

  25. Anonymous wrote:

    I'm an American who has been living in Thailand for over 5 years, married with a child to a Thai. I feel it's important that I also state I left the US because of the poor shape our leadership had taken – I simply could not stand to pay taxes to Mr. Bush & company any longer. I chose Thailand because of the kind nature of the humans here and their value of family, community, and friends. I also chose Thailand because honesty still comes before profit for the majority.

    I often find people from the 'West' to be brainwashed into believing that somehow Democracy is automatically great because leadership is chosen by the many. This, supposedly, is supposed to mean we have a voice. But when you compare monarchies to oligarchies to democracies to any other political/military form of power, you see there is NO system that leads to more great leadership. SO WHAT IF WE HAVE A VOICE IN CHOOSING LEADERSHIP IF ONCE THEY GET IN, THEY DO NOTHING OF GOOD?

    Democracy literally is 'rule by mob'. But for that to be better than another form, the mob must be better. The problem is we are human! We are flawed. And most of us are never willing to acknowledge that simple fact.

    I can say I would rather live with a great King in power than a crappy democratically elected government. Regardless of what may or may not be, I believe the King of Thailand has truly sought to do what is best for Thai people. I believe he has truly sought to be the best human he can be. Has he made mistakes? Sure. However, I also believe he is one that has acknowledged those mistakes, maybe only to the privy few, and maybe in some instances only to himself, but I will take that over the greedy, power-hungry politicians that are all over this world right now.

    We become so blind by the word 'democracy', just as we become blind by the idea of 'wealth'. I have traveled and spent significant amounts of time in at least 25 countries of various religious, political and economic backgrounds and what I have found is that the simpler – what the west calls the poorer – countries tend to be more happy, truly happy. Real smiles can't be faked. Real joy in the human heart can't be hidden. AND MONEY DOESN'T CREATE THAT JOY OR THOSE SMILES.

    Yes, it is important we have food, water, and security. However, money doesn't create any of those. Often is the case, money actually creates insecurity. Americans are some of the most wealthy people in the world, and in my experience also some of the most insecure.

    So when people criticize another country for not having created more wealth, I say 'Look to see if they have created more happiness instead. The two do not always go hand-in-hand.' And my definition of great leadership is leadership that understands this.

  26. Anonymous wrote:

    “You deliberately leaked the email for political purposes.

    Utter rubbish.”

    I agree with you on this but where is the WHOLE truth?
    As an unknown non-entity in Thailand at least, you could not expect your views on Thailand to create such a storm. Therefore you could gain no political capital from leaking the email

    So tell us. Apart from you and the College President, who saw a copy of your email and did you give it to him/her voluntarily (perhaps to show solidarity, perhaps to show off, perhaps to impress)?

    It seems your judgement is weak when it comes to your friends, (which also suggests your views on Thailand may be based on partly unreliable sources). Or are you still expecting us to believe that the college President leaked the email???

  27. Anonymous wrote:

    Mr Jones
    As someone who has lived in Thailand for 12 years and who is neither pro or anti Thaksin or Abhisit i would just like to make one comment. Mr Abhisit was only able to come to power as PM after a military coup, then elections which returned the prior government (minus Thaksin) but that government was not able to function because of a military backed mob which took over the government offices (including parliament and the PM’s offices and the airports). Abhisit then formed a coalition with a banned politician (Newin), and only that enabled him to form a majority. For Abhisit to talk about democracy with a straight (two) faced makles me want to vomit. To add insult to injury he describes the military coup as “necessary”. Shame on you Oxford University.

  28. Viriya wrote:

    Mr. Jones,

    I am a Thai with little knowledge on politics. I’m grateful that you expressed your view (although privately). I agree. Anyway, I’m a middle-class living in Bangkok who proudly wears a red-shirt, or a UDD.

    I’m trying to write a sound comment here but I could not dispute you. Your words are correct and accurate.

    One thing, PAD are definitely fascists.

    Viriya

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