If the deal was clean, then surely Thaksin is spotless
The debate has definitely gone global. Is it a "blow" to Thai democracy, or is it a sign of political maturity? Is it a mob rule, or is it civil responsibility when all else failed? Thaksin Shinawatra surely is having political textbooks rewritten around the planet. But everywhere you go, common ground is hard to find. Love him and you'll see a Robin Hood, albeit an extremely rich one, victimised by a conspiracy. Hate him and there's a political monster driven by what motivated Ferdinand Marcos and, in part, Hitler and the Khmer Rouge.
Why can't there be a compromise? Thaksin, in showing us that the world is grey, has somehow managed to divide Thais and the international audience into black and white camps. More intriguing is the fact that both camps are proclaiming themselves patriotic and democratic. This means if one side is right, the other must be wrong. This is not a battle between, say, communism and democracy. It's a holy war between people proclaiming to hold dear the same ideology.
In calling Thaksin's fate a blow to democracy, The Economist and some other Western media were uncompromising about the merit of elections. In refusing to accept the April 2 snap election as the ultimate judge, Thaksin's opponents are steadfast on the merits of political integrity and moral leadership. As to the latter points, the Temasek-Shin Corp deal confirmed longstanding fears that Thaksin lacks moral leadership and that the political integrity and ethics of Thailand are falling apart.
So, we have come to the real contentious point here. The Temasek affair, that is. What's your viewpoint on it? The answer will yield some clues on the ultimate question: is the street campaign that forced Thaksin out, temporarily or whatever, a setback for Thai democracy?
It's clean. The Constitution Court seems to say so, and everyone does it this way. I'm happy with his explanation about taxes and all of that.
If this is your answer, no, the street campaign is not a blow to Thai democracy; it's a nuclear bomb and it will take decades for the Thai political system to get back on its feet. What has happened to Thaksin means that a few high-flying mavericks driven simply by envy can at any time fool the relatively well-educated middle class, manipulate them and then turn a decent, hard-working and highly popular political leader into the worst devil and overthrow him in a matter of months. It means that even the government's own powerful media can't compete with the state-censored propaganda of its opponents. How can a weaker government survive in the future?
If you are in this group and firmly believe in this conspiracy theory, my sincere apology to you and, of course, to The Economist for my rant last week.
It's quite dirty. Although I don't agree with the Constitution Court's refusal to consider the case, I think the scandal is acceptable.
If this is your answer, here are some more questions: should the people who think the deal is dirty and decided to take to the streets be considered a mob, guilty of plotting to oust a democratically elected government? Should they be considered unpatriotic and anti-democratic? Their only difference from you is that they don't trust the checks and balances of Thailand. Is that a crime? If it is, is it worse than the Temasek scandal?
If you are from a there's-nothing-election-can't-heal school, you must be an advocate of democracy. And if you are an advocate of democracy, what is the most democratic path where this "scandal" is concerned? A) The leader should resign because the scandal involves him directly. Leave Parliament alone because it has nothing to do with the other MPs. B) The leader doesn't have to resign. Calling a new election is enough and he should be welcome back if he gets a new mandate.
If The Economist's answer is A, I don't see its point. The "blow" to democracy could be traced back to the moment Thaksin decided against the magazine's principles. He violated the rules of democracy first, so to speak.
If its answer is B, again, I'm sorry and wholeheartedly apologise for last week's outburst.
The deal is unbelievably dirty and it put all the jigsaw pieces - the shares in servants account and the establishment of Ample Rich and so on - together.
If this is your answer, I've got this for you: if the April 2 election and its results were all that mattered, Thaksin would be back definitely.
What would you do?