Friday, 23 June 2017
PM Prayut four questions for UK as well as Thailand?
PM Prayut's Four Questions as always prove interesting reading - but also a salutary lesson for UK after the dismal election of 8th June.
With an unelected leader now held together by a minority government amidst the shambles of senior politicians voted out, new UKIP and Liberal leadership elections – although they could be held in a telephone box, senior civil servants defenestrated, a whole year of Brexit bumbling (and potentially upto two or three or four more years before it's cancelled), and a worsening economy, UK could well pay heed to PM Prayut's Four Questions.
Only the Ministry of Silly Walks seems well-staffed at the moment in UK government.
Certainly the robotic mantras of strong and stable from Britain's Blueshirts don't have the eloquence and openness of PM Prayut's fireside chats. While the lack of televised Leader Debates and party broadcasts are in stark contrast to the running commentary - no matter how impartial - of Thailand's 30 minute TV shows.
And the threadbare 1970's socialism of Britain's Redshirts is a knee-jerk ideology nationalisation of railways is perhaps only slightly more jaw-droppingly awful than the 18th century Blueshirtsim of foxhunting.
All again in stark contrast to PM Prayut's modernisation initiatives under the Thailand 4.0 umbrella. And Fruitival just one policy, served up fresh and hot, amongst many.
For Britain still to be bumbling towards its first Industrial Strategy some 200 years after beginning the Industrial revolution is concerning.
But if PM Prayut is an uber-patriot returning happiness - or at least a measure of stability - to the Thai people through the unrest and emergencies of the last 3 years, the demands can only grow louder for elections in 2018 from the Four Questions:
1. Do you think the next election will give Thailand a government with good governance?
An interesting philosophical question clouded in doubt and uncertainty for any nation. But perhaps the next election will do so for Thailand. Thailand’s economy is starting to tick upwards. Tourism remains resilient even with the shock report of Thailand rated as one of the world's most dangerous nations - perhaps because of the volume of tourism.
While civil society - a weakness in much of Asia - has been strengthened in Thailand with say ACT anti-corruption groups. While the National Strategy with politicians, businesses, civil servants and Third Sector groups is a refreshing contribution to oversight and scrutiny. It’s in stark contrast to the cod-cabinet of the UK Privy Council or House of Lords still infected with 91 hereditary Lords and bizarre farce of hereditary elections to replace them as they die off.
Unfortunately, as we've seen in UK with the trashing of the Fixed term Parliament Act at its first hurdle, and then the tearing up of the Blueshirt manifesto, elections don't always yield good governance. In Britain's case with even Northern Ireland's DUP now complaining, it doesn't even seem to yield a government.
2. If that is not the case what will you do?
Presumably, as in UK, Thai citizens will tut and sigh and turn away from politics in disgust. That demonstrated in the rise in low turnouts (over 30% of UK voters not voting in national elections, and 70%(!) not voting in local elections). A bitter harvest for the last D-Day veterans landing in Normandy to secure weak democracy in a failing nation. A weakened government and resurgent opposition will undoubtedly result in repeated carcrash elections in effect sifting through the detritus to eventually find viable leadership.
Troops on the streets viable? Britain's tried that recently for a few days - along with armed police - with the London Bridge and Borough Market bombing to minimal support. And less so than in Thailand, France's ongoing state of emergency has failed to stem the wave of terror attacks or instil a sense of security.
But again PM Prayut must be thinking of the 2018 elections and standing with his own party or not?
He could certainly lay claim to strong and stable leadership. And as an uber-patriot surely he must also be best-placed to place a framework around any military aid to the civil power in the future? 21st century Thailand can hardly continue the rollercoaster ride of coups and counter-coups or tempestuous colourshirt politics.
And perhaps all the more important without the wise counsel of King Bhumibol for the first time in the Thai landscape.
And as a comparison, the vitriol routinely directed at the UK royals would cause thousands of lese-majeste cases in Thailand - each day. No wonder Prince Charles routinely heads off to Romania to relax and get away from it all.
With Prince Harry this week stating that no royal wants to be King or Queen Britain’s monarchy seems to be in something of a greater pickle too. With Prince Philip in hospital again and retiring from public life and Queen Elizabeth 91 years old, the smoothness of transition from King Bhumibol to King Vajiralongkorn – despite naughty German teens’s air rifles - is another stark contrast between UK and Thailand.
3. Elections are an integral part of democracy but are elections without regard for the country's future right or wrong?
Again a profound question that casts UK's recent election for Party purposes in a dim light. And as with the rise in civil society in Thailand whether Greenpeace or monks or farmer's or CEDT or TDRI groups, democracy is more than just elections.
Certainly the UK approach of essentially elected dictatorships every five years is overdue for reform. While the Blueshirts have been described as an absolutist political party tempered only by regicide.
While the merry-go-round of elections on Scottish independence, Brexit and national elections plus party leader elections and resignations in Clegg, Cameron, Farron, Nuttall, Farage and Miliband is hardly testament to elections leading to stability and growth in UK at the moment.
4. Do you think bad politicians should be given the chance to return to politics - and if conflict re-emerges who will solve it and by what means?
Does PM Prayut mean Thaksin or Yingluck? Or both? But surely Thailand as a modern democracy can’t perpetually ban citizens for taking up politics? Cambodia's PM Hun Sen's triumph with Sam Rainsy exiled and banned from politics, seems a pyrrhic victory worthy of UK elections and a cautionary tale on the Shinawatra debate.
As was the heat of a judicial coup around the rice pledging schemes and watermelon politics.
Even Boris Johnson, foreign Secretary and erstwhile PM, was only hidden away during the election campaign after his Brexit shenanigans. While the capable Michael Gove has been given another chance after the Brexit palace coup as Environment Minister to green Britain under the hot glare of Climate Change.
And if conflict returns to the streets surely the Boys in Brown of Thailand's police should be the first call, as with UK's Bobbies on the beat, rather than troops firing on citizens? The Bloody Sunday inquiry of Northern Ireland and 14 citizens shot dead by the Parachute Regiment still taints UK politics even now, with the Unionjackshirts of DUP urging amnesties.
Certainly no UK general would expect to last long outside the barracks for any dalliance in UK politics - even the Duke of Wellington met his Prime Ministerial Waterloo besieged in his Hyde Park home under the slings and arrows of the baying mob. And certainly PM Prayut has a golden opportunity in his fireside chats - or aerobic sessions - to openly discuss the future and reform of Thailand’s military?
Is conscription viable? Cancelled in UK back in 1960 even at the height of the Cold War, as an economic and social drain. What is the right size and role of the military? Is Cambodia stealing a march on UK and Thailand in its peacekeeping role with over 1,000 troops deployed? How does the military work in Resilience operations whether SAR search and rescue at sea or floods and earthquakes on land?
After all it took President Eisenhower a former military man and leader of D-Day, highlighted the dangers of the military-industrial complex soaking up public funds with perpetual emergencies and the inability to switch off the military machine. Even now UK troop still based in Germany long after WW2 and the Cold War.
Or PM Prayut could discuss the CEDT view of 61 deans of Thailand’s foremost universities urging the handbrake is pulled on S44 for the Bangkok-Nongkhai Chinese railway that seems to benefit China rather than Thailand or Laos. Is throwing billions of dollars to plough through the vast emptiness of the Laotian Highlands sensible even with OBOR?
With both Kent University and Newcastle University the latter already linked with Kasetsart engineering depts - and Kent’s Southeastern franchise due a Meiji Kent overhaul with a consortium of Japan Rail and Netherlands – surely rail technology transfers would easily be viable?
Certainly that would be of more use to Thailand - although less fun - than Lumyai's Mor Lam twerking? Rather than facing a barrage of three-fingered salutes - and more than a few UK citizens are offering the current UK PM a few two fingered salutes - PM Prayut himself rather than a Lukthung music video lookey-likey could give the thumbs up to increased UK-Thailand trade?
Sadly the Grenfell Tower firestorm in London has exposed shortcomings in both fire standards and UK Resilience - mobs besieging the council offices and resignations, before public inquiries beyond lessons learned, over such failures. And in Kent heavy rotation of press and radio advertising highlighting Pandemic preparation - and need for the Sir Julian Brazier Medical School project linked to Discovery Park vaccine factory - as vaccinations fall below the 83% safe level.
A healthy flow of nurses and doctors and researchers and pharma-factor workers is all the more important for the NHS as Brexit rumbles on and EU citizens and STEM workers feel unwelcome, and the Kent Farm-to-Pharma strategy falters.
Surely Brexit highlights to both UK and Thailand, Eire's sterling work in securing all ten of the top 10 pharma companies from Pfizer to Ameger as inward investment. And there must be a template of JV activity for the City of London and Thai firms such as KTB, SCB and Kasikorn?
For surely PM Prayut's Four Questions pose the basis not just to tee up the 2018 elections but for a strong and stable UK and Thailand relationship into the future.