Published on Dec 31, 2007
'You' are bitterly divided, yet fiercely determined though somewhat clueless. One half of 'You' is accused by the other of being 'na´ve' and 'gullible', as opposed to the returned charges of being 'elitist' and 'uncaring'.
'You' have been skating on thin ice, so precariously but so far superbly.
And because 'You', without a single drop of blood being shed, have brought back democracy with strong warnings to past, present and future powers-that-be,
'You' are our Person of the Year for 2007.
The Nation's Thanong Khanthong and Weerayut Chokchaimadon write their own stories, arguing for their causes, to represent 'You' in this divided kingdom.
A tale of two cities in divided Kingdom
You no longer trust your neighbours or even your closest friends. Your family is split; so are your neighbourhood, community, province and country.
Talking politics has become taboo because you do not want to lose friends or engage in endless arguments that will never arrive at a conclusion.
The state of Thailand in 2007 was no different from that in 2006. It boiled down to whether you would like to embrace ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra as your hero again or whether you would like to remove him forever from your nightmare.
It was a black-and-white proposition.
You did not have to exercise any profound thought to realise a Thaksin comeback would bring about endless political problems and retribution. You were anxious for the future of the country.
You were concerned over the sharp political divide. And you were disturbed by Thaksin's massive political influence and wealth, which allowed him - even as he was exiled abroad - to shape public opinion.
You woke on December 23 knowing it would be a fateful day, one determining the country's course for years to come. You had just one vote. This time you knew it was crucial.
No matter what the outcome, you knew political turmoil was moving to another phase - a final showdown.
The September 2006 coup marked only the beginning of an end. It should go down as the most polite coup ever. It did not resolve any problems. It only prolonged social polarisation that would manifest itself again in 2007 and beyond.
On second thoughts, you tried to soothe yourself by holding that a bloodless coup was a "Thai way" to resolve political conflict.
A lot of people should appreciate the polite coup, given a more prevailing culture of bloody violence in other parts of the world. Note the Bhutto assassination.
Polls showed the People Power Party, the reincarnation of the Thai Rak Thai, enjoying a lead and it could win at least 200 seats.
People Power would sweep the North and Northeast, where standards of living are the lowest. In Bangkok, there were signs it could manage a strong showing.
Still, you did not trust polls; there were attempts to manipulate them.
You were no big fan of the Democrat Party, which was a bit boring and lacked imagination. But you knew it was the strongest opposition to the People Power.
There were no national parties in Thailand. Thai politics is represented by regional diversities. The South, and at times Bangkok, voted Democrat. The North and Northeast voted People Power. Chart Thai took Central.
Other political parties, mostly breakaway factions of People Power, were all newcomers.
People Power campaigned on material gain and economic wellbeing, while the Democrats emphasised honest leadership.
You were surprised to find some of your neighbours, who had never voted before, did so. Again, they were no big fans of the Democrats. But they voted Democrat because they just did not want Thaksin back.
The election was split between those who supported Thaksin and those who did not, judging by the popular vote. The Democrats mustered 14,084,265 votes against 14,071,799 votes for People Power, a margin of about 10,000.
But the Democrat edge did not translate into more seats in the House. People Power won 233 seats of 480 thanks to its rural support. The Democrats took 165.
You were heartbroken. The middle class and other urban voters were too. They wanted to see an end to political turmoil and the country moving forward.
They were simply outnumbered. Bangkok had ignored the North and Northeast voters for too long. They saw in Thaksin a saviour who could improve their wellbeing through economic populism. They voted People Power because they would get a material benefit in return.
The Democrats did not lose this election. Its votes doubled to 14 million. The PPP (alias Thai Rak Thai) found its votes falling from more than 18 million to 14 million.
Voter turnout was a record 73 per cent, signalling voter realisation that the stakes were particularly high this time.
This was reminiscent of the George W Bush-Al Gore 2000 presidential race. US politics was shaped by geographical diversity. Gore won the popular vote by a tiny margin. But Bush bagged the electoral college votes.
Thailand had never faced this kind of sharp political divide before. You suddenly recalled His Majesty the King's speeches. His Majesty had expressed his concern over the divide. The King repeated warnings that people must reunite to keep the country on a steady course.
You also recalled the theory of Anek Laothamatas, the well-known academic and member of the Ruam Jai Thai Chart Pattana Party. In his "A Tale of Two Cities" theory, he argues rural voters vote in governments but urban voters kick them out. A government without broad-based support from the middle classes almost always finds it difficult to survive for long.
Once again, this theory will be put to the test.
by Thanong Khanthong
A villain for some, a hero for others
You are a big fan of Thaksin Shinawatra, aren't you? So you voted for the People Power Party in the general election.
You are counting down to the day he will return to Thailand after living in exile abroad for more than a year. For you, he is a hero, not a devil as his enemies claim.
You can recall how much Thaksin helped you and your family after taking power in 2001.
Whether or not they were populist, those schemes of his disbanded Thai Rak Thai Party - including the Village Fund, Bt30 medical scheme, People's Bank, One Tambon One Product (Otop) and CEO governor - made you think: "Finally, someone cares about me."
Thaksin made you feel you did not have to live under the yoke of elite groups any longer. He imposed bureaucratic reform. It was great for the country, you think. At the end of the day, you believe Thaksin accomplished his job in allowing ordinary people to have their say.
They called Thaksin a corrupt, brutal leader. But you didn't believe them. Claims of unjustified killings in his war against drugs and of corruption to benefit his wealth were only allegations.
For you, anti-Thaksin rallies were illegitimate as they were just a campaign by his enemies who lost benefits from his party's schemes. They wanted to oust him but failed at the ballot box.
Then they sent tanks onto the streets. They told you Thaksin was no longer your leader because he was so corrupt and disloyal to the monarchy. They said they were better men and promised to give you a better life.
"All right," you said. What more could you do when you were faced with soldiers and guns?
Then they hit Thaksin with a number of charges. They dissolved Thai Rak Thai. They told you to approve the new constitution. You thought these actions were unfair to you, to Thaksin, and to the country.
Look at them after a year in power. They are richer. You are poorer. When you cried foul over unfair treatment, they called you an idiot who still dreamt of the corrupt leader.
When the Election Commission set December 23 to hold the first election since the military coup of September 19, 2006, you were told to exercise your vote as a good citizen. They said it would be the first step to restore Thailand's democracy.
Democracy? You don't think it ever existed, do you? If it did, you wonder why your elected prime minister was ousted by the coup.
Anyway, as a good citizen, you told yourself to go to the ballot. You had heard the PPP was a new party of Thaksin, so your choice was for People Power men. If the party won, you believed Thaksin could return to be prime minister in the near future.
As the clock ticked away to the election, you started counting down to the day. You could not hide how much you hoped for from this election.
"I love Thaksin. I will vote for the PPP." You were telling the whole world that, weren't you?
Your reason is simple. Once Thaksin is back in power, you are sure he will help you to have a good life again. The PPP promises to continue Thai Rak Thai schemes. You have waited for the return of the good old days under Thaksin.
They kept saying how careful you should be in casting your ballots. "Vote for the good men, the honest candidates," they campaigned.
As with democracy, you don't believe one single politician in this country is honest. How much money in state coffers do they give to people? Only a businessman like Thaksin, you believe, is best at delivering this job.
Then the election came. This was the first chance in 15 months for you, not his enemies, to give justice "directly" to Thaksin.
It was an easy job. You voted for People Power candidates. The result? The PPP won the poll with 233 of 480 House seats, while the rival Democrat Party came second with 165 seats.
Your heart was full of joy. The PPP will form the next government. Thaksin will return. Life is not that easy, though.
When the winner was not their choice, they called you a stupid, uneducated idiot. It was only because you voted for the Thaksin party. They said they had to accept the result because many people like you still loved to vote for those evil choices.
You believe that if the result had been the other way round, they would have said this country was full of wise men.
You wonder what the value of the election is when the losers do not accept their defeat.
Doesn't democracy give people freedom of expression and participation? Is one vote for Thaksin sinful while a vote for his opponents is glorious? Is the election just a new way of dividing people into social classes?
Questions continue to play on your mind.
by Weerayut Chokchaimadon