Thailand has a unique history as well as the combination of the races, the tribes, the religions, ways of life, and other beliefs. Together with its sunny tropical climate, being fertile for agriculture and easy livings, Thailand harbours a particular kind of political culture which in turn has retarded the country and the people for nearly a century.
Out of 60 million people, 90 per cent live outside Bangkok, where lives are relatively peaceful and slow despite the general poverty. No matter how far ones migrate to other parts of the country, local and rural cultures still play major roles through the blood ties, the spoken dialects, as well as their thoughts. Only minority 10 per cent, city born, adopt different city lifestyle and ideologies.
In general, since the nature is not too harsh on them, Thais are friendly, pleasant, fun-loving and easy-going. The population have been grown up passively, to be dependent on others, and taught by subconscious examples to be relatively submissive and respectful to the monks, the parents, the teachers, elders and the authorities in order to maintain good relationships and hence good connections for personal benefits and peace of minds as well as peace of the communities. Thais are not taught to be inquisitive, argumentative, a reformer and a rebel. Any nonconformers would look wierd and subjected to be socially unacceptable.
Contrarily, westerner's life is a hard struggle. Everyone is for oneself. Everyone is equal and supposed to abide by the same rules. Simply, Thais follow personal connections rather than the laws. Thais personally care the upfront one's personal feelings rather than the remote and abstract rules particularly if that personally related one is superior and influential. For decades, modern schooling and public televisions have neither educated nor changed this particular culture, but perpetuated evenmore into the youngs. Pitifully, materialistic industrial changes have swept the country with weakened moral immunity, and people become more selfish at the expense of the society.
Politicians in Thai culture basically come from local rural areas who are the wiser ones and the more powerful ones in terms of people's trust and money. Naturally, they are the one which other members would not like to stand up against. They may be either good guys or bad guys who local people come for financial aids, to consult, to solve their problems or to ask for a help through the superior connections. They may be ex-teachers, powerful landlords, illicit goods traders, gambling mafia, police officers or ex-civil servants. Whoever is the more powerful could be either officially elected or unofficially but de facto nominated to be the head of the village, looking after dozens of houses, or head of groups of villages (Kamnan), looking after a dozen of villages (hundreds or thousands of voters) . These basic building blocks of Thai politics have been very well conformed with the local self-administration system to link with the national centralized administration system which was the result of the major reform in the reign of King Rama V more than a hundred years ago.
Any national leading politicians need strong connections to these grass roots local influential headman "Kamnan". The more "Kamnan"s, one has in hand, the higher chance of winning the provincial general election. Statistically a very close prediction up to 70 per cent of the outcome of any next general election can be comfortably done after the numbers of the previously elected politicians in hand of each political party are known.
As a result, there is no actual political ideological conflicts in Thai society. There is neither actual competition between the left and the right ideologies nor the fight between socialism and the liberalism. There is no political competition between social classes or fight for unions either. There are only personal wealth and power conflicts and conflicts of personal interests which most of the times are solved with personal connections, money and sometimes with bullets.
Political parties' administrators never pay attention to the members. Their members names and numbers are initially needed to fulfill the legal requirements de jure. Party's policies in Thailand are just beautifully written novels which party members never have any roles in the creation, selection or approval. Candidates to contest in any election are not from the approval of the party members but from the party owners selection based upon the potential to win the election ( the connections to buy votes) or else, the finalncial subsidy to the party.
Except in the capital Bangkok and in the southern provinces of Thailand, where the people's political awareness is higher and the old Democrat party always secure the places, there is definitely stronger personal loyalty between the vote-buyers and the vote-salers as compared to the loyalty to political party names and policies. Whereas the voters' loyalty to the party is virtually nil. Consequently, Thai politicians keep changing the parties to find the best bid of financial support from the party which may reach 1 million USD to buy votes to win a seat in a general election
Thai political parties, except the Democrat Party, are virtually private companies owned by top most politicians who work and pay top-down to recruit necessary connections to Kamnans to win the general election. The more, the party wins the MP seats, the better negotiation power it has to form a cabinet.
Once, winning the House of Parliament, the party through the state concessions and monopolization of the national wealth, must return the investment by conspired policies for corruptions and commisions. The selection of the cabinet members is never of quality-dependent wise but instead, upto the decicion of parties' owners base on the quota of the MPs under the minister's personal control to vote of confidence. As a result, MPs of each party are just puppets on strings of the party's owners. They have to follow the orders to ensure the regular undertable salaries as well as the next-election budgets for vote-buying.
In contrast to western democratic building blocks, each western constituency has different needs, various ideologies and politicians to represent in the competition. Contesting polititians and party's policies have to be nominated and orginated from voting of the individaul party member. They rarely if ever change to other parties. To buy votes from voters in western election is absolutely wierd whereas it is a usual and logical practice in Thailand.
With annual per capita income less than a thousand USD, one can be very sure to buy a vote at a price of under twenty dollars. To win a general election, a would-be MP would need a million USD budget to ensure his seat. To win the House of Parliament's majority, only 300 million USD from multibillionare Thaksin and Pojaman's pocket, was not so difficult. As never before, Thaksin was the first who could join all the on-sale politicians and on-sale political parties to become under a single name Thai Rak Thai party(TRT) and claimed the majority in the first term in 2001 and the majority 19 million people voted for TRT in his 2005 second term through this defective political culture.
Despite electoral frauds and vote-buying have been charged and penalized, the corrupt governments try all possible ways either by bribery of the Election Control Committee to lift the charges and stay on. After being disbanded, Thai Rak Thai party(TRT) under Thaksin's financial support became resurrected in the new name of People's Power Party(PPP) for the puppet PM Samak and PM Somchai, Thaksin's brother-in-law.
Again, to nobody's surprise, PPP was found guilty of major electoral frauds by the Election Control Committee and was disbanded by the Constitutional Court's verdict on December 2, 2008. However, PPP has prepared some a new party such as Pua-Thai to rejoin the on-sale politicians for a coming-back.
No matter when, Thaksin and his gang are so sure to win any general elections or national refferendum since they have got a good grip of the nation's connections. It is much easier when they also have the administrative power and the police state authority in their hands. This is also WHY PAD has to keep on fighting to reform the democracy and counter the electoral frauds.
How Thaksin Plays with Politics
A Statement by the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) on jailing ECC for electoral corruption
Cabinet of Greed
Somchai's Plot for General Election
Constitutional Court's Disband Somchai's PPP