Thaksin's Money Politics Continue In Thailand
Thaksin Shinawatra is still trying to control Thai politics even though he is a convicted felon and fugitive and living outside of Thailand. It's obvious he will stop at nothing to regain power in some way, even if his role is confined to that of a puppetmaster pulling strings from whatever country that decides to let him stay.
The latest egregious act of his is the attempt to bribe members of parliament who deserted the Pheu Thai party recently. They are reportedly being offered 55 million baht apiece by Pheu Thai to return to the party before next week's election for prime minister takes place. Veteran politician Newin Chidchob led a defection of 37 members of the party to support the Democrats in the election which, along with 15 members from the now-disbanded Chart Thai party, provides the Democrats with a majority of MPs in the House, thus assuring the election of Democrat leader Abhisit Vejjajiva as prime minister.
To prevent that, Pheu Thai is trying to use the 55 million baht bribe money to lure enough defectors back to the party fold so that they can defeat the Democrats and their allies. The amazing thing about this whole situation, especially to western observers, must be the fact that this information is readily available in both the English-language and Thai-language newspapers here and there is no public outcry about it. This is, basically, Thai politics as usual. Could you imagine the Republican party in the U.S. openly offering bribes to Democrats to change their party affiliation in return for roughly $1.5 million each?
One must also realize that in every national election here vote buying is rampant. This is how Thaksin won two elections and would have continued to win elections had he not been deposed by the military in the September 2006 coup. He always would have had more money than any opponent. Even the dissolution of his original party, Thai Rak Thai, by the Constitutional Court for election fraud in May of 2007 didn't stop him and his supporters. The court also ordered that 110 members of the Thai Rak Thai party be banned from politics for five years (Thaksin himself was banned). So they recruited new members, came up with a different party name -- People Power Party -- and continued on their merry way.
In the last election held in December, 2007, after the generals relinquished power, the PPP won the election. They were accused of election fraud again and this past December 2 they were convicted again and ordered disbanded with 47 members declared banned from politics for five years. Out of the ashes of the PPP rose the current Thaksin-controlled party, Pheu Thai, which is now frantically trying to hold on to power by bribing MPs since they currently don't have enough support to control the election for prime minister.
The money comes from Thaksin since political parties here rarely receive contributions from private citizens the way they do in the U.S., for example. There are, it seems, no laws regarding election campaign contributions here of any kind so it is virtually impossible to know who finances the parties. Thaksin has obviously funded all of the permutations of the parties he's been involved with and since the war chest for the bribes that the Pheu Thai party now has is about $56 million dollars, as reported in the newspapers here, it has to have come from him.
So the next time you read about democracy in Thailand or see articles about Thaksin whining about how he was legitimately elected and was illegally overthrown by a military coup, you'll have a different perspective by which to judge his self-serving statements. And although this piece is labeled as opinion, because the verbiage here is not completely without bias, the facts above are just that. Facts. You can verify every statement made here from many other sources.