Tuesday, September 09, 2008

How About If We Offer The Thais Palin To Run Their Country Instead?


I'm preparing for my annual Big Trip. This year it's Mali. Roland and I were contemplating the extra cost of hiring someone to ride shotgun in the 4WD we're renting-- literally shotgun-- to take us through remote areas of the country where, by normal tourist standards, there's nothing (including no roads). "At least," said Roland, "we're not headed for Thailand this year. There are serious riots and they closed the Phuket Airport." Last December we were in Thailand and we covered the Thai elections, which brought the party of corrupt neo-fascist billionaire and crook Thaksin Shinawatra back to power. Thaksin, a crony of the Bush family of course, has since fled the country (again), one step ahead of a prison sentence.

The riots Roland was relieved we wouldn't be involved in this year, were due to the fact that people wanted Thaksin's puppet prime minister, Samak Sundaravej, to resign. He refused. I've been to Thailand over a dozen times; I love the place, although I'm not all that enthusiastic about the political instability, and especially not about the corrupt, Bush-oriented leadership. Today's NY Times explains how an appearance on a TV cooking show... cooked Samak's goose-- and could have saved the country from more riots and a probable military coup. (The Times of London goes one step further-- and features the recipe Tom Kha Salmon-- that did Samak in.) I said "could have" because Thaksin's party, the P.P.P., plans to renominate Samak for the job, defying the court order.
Anti-government protesters cheered and wept when the verdict was read over radio and television, but there was no sign that they would end a two-week standoff in which they have blockaded the prime minister’s office.

The confrontation has hobbled government business, hit financial markets, damaged the country’s vital tourist trade and raised fears of violence or a possible military coup.

...The protesters accuse Mr. Samak of corruption and incompetence and say he is a stand-in for former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a coup two years ago this month.

Mr. Thaksin is in London, where he is seeking political asylum in an attempt to evade corruption charges. He says the charges are politically motivated.

The allure Thaksin has for Thailand's ill-educated rural masses-- he has little support among educated people in cities-- is not unlike the Sarah Palin phenomena we're seeing in America (nor unlike the attraction Italians feel for crooked right-wing billionaire Silvio Berlusconi). It's a fascination with the "reality TV" aspects of their lives and a frustration with the hopelessly corrupt political system which is difficult for anyone to respect. Samak had been paid $2,350 for four shows on a program called “Tasting and Complaining," a harbinger of what we can expect from the Livin' Palin crew.

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