Bangkok Post : Bold new approach essential to avert political crisis
INPrint Bold new approach essential to avert political crisis
All political parties are campaigning hard to win the hearts and minds of the electorate amid speculation that political tensions will flare after the election. Social commentator Prawase Wasi, chairman of the Assembly for National Reform, right, makes a point at a news conference at Ban Phitsanulok last year as former prime minister Anand Panyarachun listens. CHANAT KATANYU
Social critic Dr Prawase Wasi has outlined solutions to possible disturbances once the election is over, notes Thai Rath. He says that many people believe that after the election, the country will still face political instability as the conditions that cause this have yet to be resolved.
If Pheu Thai fails to win an absolute majority in the House of Representatives and the Democrat Party is able to form a coalition government with small parties, Pheu Thai and the red shirts will accuse the armed forces and "invisible hands" of interfering to prevent Pheu Thai from assuming power.
This is not democratic, they will charge, and resort to street politics to oppose a Democrat-led government.
If Pheu Thai wins and can form a government and brings Thaksin home, those who hate and fear the former prime minister and those who worry about possibly endangering the future of the monarchy are likely to combine forces to oppose the Pheu Thai government.
Dr Prawase proposes the following solutions. If Pheu Thai wins, the party should be given the opportunity to form the government without any outside interference.
"Don't use any non-system power to compel parties to do as one wishes. Let the process of forming a government be as transparent as possible and people can trust this process," said Dr Prawase.
If Pheu Thai can form the government, and whether Thaksin can come home or not, he can always dictate to a Pheu Thai-led government. Dr Prawase advises Thaksin to mend his ways.
Thaksin used to be the most powerful figure in the country. No matter how much Thaksin thought he did for the country, the fact that so many people hate and fear him shows that his dominant presence is not good for the country.
"If Thaksin reforms himself, whatever he did to make people hate and fear him, he should refrain from repeating. He must think carefully about how Thailand should proceed in the future.
"If Thaksin changes his ways fundamentally, it will benefit Thailand greatly and will unlock a condition that creates political instability."
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The opposition is bent on destroying the government and vice versa. Buddhism teaches us that polarised thinking is unnatural as all things in nature are related. Polarised thinking can lead to much violence.
Dr Prawase notes that parties should aim to develop the country, not to destroy each other. Whatever is good for the country, parties must join hands to work for that goal, not to oppose every issue, criticise everything.
In the United States, when an issue is important and contentious, the president often invites the opposition law-makers to breakfast at the White House for consultation.
Sometimes, the president appoints someone in the opposition party to become a cabinet member such as Robert Gates, a Republican, who was reappointed as defence minister in the Obama administration.
Even though Mr Gates is a Republican, he agreed to serve in the Obama administration because he loves the country more than his own party.
Dr Prawase wonders if it is possible that a Pheu Thai-led government could appoint one or two ministers from the Democrat Party, and if the Democrat Party forms the government again, why not appoint one or two capable ministers from the Pheu Thai Party?
This will herald the beginning of Buddhism's moderate way that parties can complement each other while monitoring each other. "We must love the country more than our party."
Dr Prawase chides the media for cheering both sides on to fight each other. The political arena is not a fighting ring. It is an arena in which people use wisdom to work for the country. Global societies should adopt a new way of thinking, away from violence. Albert Einstein once remarked: "We must adopt a new way of thinking if humanity is to survive." On people's participation in politics, Dr Prawase believes that people politics, if constructive, is a valuable tool in driving policy implementation.
Violent confrontation must be avoided as it will be easily crushed. Crude, harsh words should be avoided as it can easily lead to a dead-end. Protesters must not do anything that society hates as they will not get any support and they will lack legitimacy.
Any mass movement to fight against inequality and injustice will get more support and more participants if it is legitimate and non-violent.
Dr Prawase advises street protesters to concentrate on the big issues proposed by the National Reconciliation Committee including reforming the state's power, land distribution for the poor and a progressive tax regime.
If the mass movement can drive policy implementation it will help reduce inequality and injustice, and the movement will become a constructive force in society for peaceful change.
"Creating social justice and reducing inequality should be the goal for all Thais, whether they are yellow shirts, red shirts, Mr Thaksin, Mr Abhisit or anyone," he said, adding that the Thai people have never had a unified goal but a goal for specific person, group or institution.
This creates differences and conflicts, plunging the country into an ever deeper crisis.
Dr Prawase notes that Thai society is getting bigger and bigger while the Thai people's hearts are not growing as much, still being narrow-minded, thinking only for themselves and associates, much more than society as a whole. This is the main reason why Thai society is sick and in crisis.
The Thai people must mend their ways and expand their hearts to work for the public good. This is the only way to restore society's equilibrium.
"This new way of thinking for the public good is hard to come by, but the political crisis can force this to happen because if Thai society continues to think in the old way, the crisis will continue to occur, again and again until it finally forces us to think in a new way with a new spirit," said Dr Prawase.
Dr Prawese expands his thought to the global stage, arguing that the old way is leading the world to a crisis, a crisis of interdependence, living together between people and nature.
If people cannot live together with other people, or with nature, humanity will reach a crisis, a crisis that will create a new civilisation that necessitates mutual dependence for survival of mankind. Time to ditch populist policies
If people don't help turn the direction of politics, the country's future will look bleak, noted Nha-Kran Laohavilai, Post Today's editor.
He says political parties are clamouring to offer outlandish promises to the people, which will empty the state's coffers.
If the country's fiscal position is in jeopardy, there will be no money to be invested in important policies including education.
Nha-Kran cites Singapore and Malaysia as now leaping past Thailand due to education.
Of course, investing in education needs a huge sum of money and capable people. If all the money is given away in various populist policies, there will be none left to invest in education.
Nha-Kran says Vietnam has about 13,112 students in the United States for advanced study in the 2010-2011 academic year, more than any other Asean country.
In global terms, Vietnam is ranked 9th for the number of students studying in United States, six times more than 10 years ago, according to the Institute for International Education, a non-profit organisation based in the US with 13 branches throughout the world, which compiled the statistics by sending questionnaires to 3,000 US universities.
The Vietnamese government allocates funds for overseas education in needed disciplines for more than 1,000 students every year. The aim is to produce 20,000 PhD graduates in the next 20 years. These graduates will come back to teach in universities and colleges as part of the country's social and economic development overhaul for the next 10-20 years.
What are Thai politicians doing? Nha-Kran concludes. WB issues warning against inflation
The global economy is set to expand 3.2% this year, a slight decline from the earlier forecast of 3.3% while Thailand's growth is seen at 3.7%, noted Hans Timmer, development director of the World Bank on Wednesday.
Mr Timmer advised political parties to learn the lesson of Thailand's 10-15 year period of economic management that saw the country grow with stability.
Even though Thailand's fiscal position is still sound, the country should think of possible risks in the future rather than concentrate too much on populist policies for short-term gains.
"Thailand's fiscal policy should be prudent and reduce expenditures as there is too much capital flowing into the country, putting inflationary pressure on assets and the value of the baht.
The counter measure should be fiscal to control inflation, which will be more effective than the monetary policy of incremental interest rate rise, which will attract even more capital inflow, risking an overheated economy," he said.
Mr Timmer also did not think well of the current policy of commodity price controls and oil price subsidies, which need a huge budget outlay.
It is better for Thailand to give money directly to the poor to alleviate hardship. The current policy might be good in the short term, but will create problems in the medium and long term.
The government should concentrate on solving people's problems in the areas that people need help such as food prices which have risen 43% globally and 10-12% domestically.
Kiripha Paovichitr, a World Bank senior economist, noted that whichever party comes to power must not allow inflation to get out of control, which is quite worrying as all the parties promise higher minimum wages and massive spending.
The World Bank places the utmost importance on budget deficits and public debt figures and hopes that the new government will not jeopardise fiscal discipline by running a huge budget deficit as it will destroy the government's reputation for fiscal prudence.