Wall Street “Populism” Tramples Thailand’s Poor

And how to pick them back up… 

February 10, 2014 (ATN) -The West has praised Thaksin Shinawatra
and his “populist” policies for years as an example of very best of
modern progressive principles in practice. Cheap loans, free computers,
and rice subsidies were hailed as democracy in action by the Western
media – and those who questioned the unsustainable, corruption and
scandal fraught policies were swiftly condemned as “elitists” who
rejected equality. The goal of these policies were never to lift up the
poor, but rather install Thaksin Shinawatra into power long enough to
uproot Thailand’s indigenous institutions and open the nation up to foreign corporate-financier and geopolitical exploitation.

However, this myth of a “populist” “pro-rural poor” government, has been
finally laid to rest. The ill-conceived vote-buying scams the regime
had propelled itself into power with, have now fully unraveled
in a spectacular display of vindication for the regime’s opposition.
However, as it has unraveled, it has left farmers across the nation
robbed of both their rice and their promised subsidies, along with a
devastated rice industry that may take years to recover in terms of
quality, exports, and reputation.

Farmers have been gathering in increasing numbers across the country in
protest of the regime – blocking roads across the rural countryside, and
mobilizing in the capital city of Bangkok along side ongoing
anti-regime protests. The growing anger amongst the rural poor could
perhaps be best seen during the recent February 2, 2014 general
elections in which voter turnout failed to reach even 50% (as opposed to over 70% in 2011) – a devastating indictment against the regime’s credibility and legitimacy.

Image: An anti-regime protester prepares donations during a
march organized by protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban seeking to raise
money for cheated, destitute rice farmers who have been ruined by
Thaksin Shinawatra and his disastrous vote-buying rice subsidy program.


Protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban has mobilized several marches to gather donations for rice farmers
who have sought, but failed to receive promised compensation for
contracts they signed with the Thaksin Shinawatra regime. These marches,
however, cannot even begin to dent the debt and damage incurred by the
regime’s reckless vote-buying scam. The protesters have also been
formulating policies to help rice farmers, should the regime collapse
and the opposition find itself in power.

While these steps are absolutely necessary, other options,
organized by the protesters and other interested parties could be
implemented in the interim to relieve struggling farmers and steer them
away forever from the politically-driven exploitation of both themselves
and the industry they have dedicated their lives to.

Direct Action Committees

Direct Action Committees (DACs) can be organized by existing groups of
protesters already gathering together to attend and support protest
activities. These committees can organize with farmers from provinces
they themselves may come from, and open up farmer-to-city markets
at both the protest sites themselves, and across the city where produce
is shipped in from the provinces and sold to urbanites as both a form
of relief and a form of protest.

While DACs running farmer-to-city markets may not be a total or
permanent solution, it can provide relief in addition to already ongoing
efforts to give the farmers both a voice and an alternative to waiting
for a regime that has no plan or possible way to make good on its broken

Produce sold at protest sites grown by farmers cheated by the regime
will only further solidify the legitimacy of the protest itself, while
turning it from a purely political movement to one of pragmatic
potential. Protesters would be more likely to donate generously to
relieving struggling farmers if they could get produce in return. Social
events revolving around the use of the produce in lunches and dinners
held at protest sites or during marches could also become a regular

The regime’s attempts to strangle a movement providing
immediate and growing relief for cheated farmers will only compound its
problems in terms of legitimacy and appeal. Arresting protest leaders
and financially attacking the movement when it is the only organized
force addressing the plight of farmers will be increasingly difficult
for even the most adamant and dishonest of the regime’s supporters to

Image: From Asia City Online’s interview
with organic farmer and owner of Ploen Khao Baan which promotes organic
farming in Thailand. Such organizations could be used to help
struggling farmers find alternatives to the rice industry, now in ruins
after vote-buying populist schemes have collapsed in scandal and


DACs that regularly meet each week may produce other alternatives and
ideas – collecting money to send farmers on trips to learn organic
farming – giving them new skills and expanding their economic activity
above and beyond the rice industry destroyed by the Thaksin regime. As
described in “Modern Organic Farming in Thailand,” organizations like Khao Kwan Foundation and Ploen Khao Baan
have already been established to help farmers improve their lives
through skills, improved market value, and economic diversification. In “Thailand: Vote-Buying Rice Scam Collapses – Farmers in Need of a Solution,” technological solutions were discussed that can begin helping farmers in the mid-to-long term.

The ultimate winner of this political crisis will not be who can talk
about the best solutions – the ultimate winner will be who actually
implements the best solutions. At the moment, the protesters represent a
sea of human resources, that if aware of their pragmatic potential and
organized in independent DACs, could easily win the race in both the
name of their political struggle, and in the name of the nation they
would like to see Thailand evolve into in the coming days, weeks,
months, and years.