Sunday, February 22, 2015

PDRC Converts to Foundation for Reform - What's Next?

Thailand is at a crossroads - one path leads to pragmatic progress, the other deeper into a political quagmire. 

February 22, 2015 (Tony Cartalucci - ATN) - Bangkok Post in its recent article, "PDRC converts into a foundation," reported that: 
The People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) has officially transformed itself into a non-profit organisation advocating reform efforts.
It also reported that: 
According to the announcement, the foundation’s objectives are to support academic activities, seminars, conferences and forums related to political, economic and social reforms, including the future of Thailand in all aspects; release reports on key topics, work with other charitable organisations for the public interest; and promote democracy with the King as head of state with political neutrality.
While in reality, such an announcement could literally mean almost anything, the PDRC has come to a crossroads where it can decide to break from the politically-motivated power mongering and cronyism that typified the previous regime that held power for nearly a decade, and commit to truly pragmatic reform in Thailand, or continue down the path of its predecessors toward another round of inevitable political chaos.

While it may seem counterintuitive for politicians to actually drive real progress, the stability and opportunities provided by real progress are the greatest firewalls an established political order can erect to prevent the sort of invasive, subversive destabilization Thaksin Shinawatra, his political machine, and the foreign interests that created and perpetuated his grip on power since 2001, used to such devastating effect.

Had rural Thailand been properly developed, education continuously improved, and socioeconomic opportunities continuously decentralized and opened up for people across the country, the reckless handouts and unsustainable vote-buying the Shinawatra regime engaged in would have been an untenable proposition indeed.

Meager Development Stunted Shinawatra's "People's Revolution," Real Development Will Destroy It

Even still, the efforts already underway, drained the swamps from which the Shinawatra regime and its foreign backers sought to raise violent, armed insurrection. By 2010 when the Asia Foundation conducted a poll to assess Shinawatra's true grip on power, less than 7% of Thailand's nearly 70 million people identified themselves as "strongly red" - red being the color associated with Shinawatra's violent street mobs.

While the Western media endlessly reports on Shinawatra's strong performance at the polls (where a meager 35% of all eligible voters voted for his party in 2011, unable to garner even a popular majority among those who did bother to vote), the fact remains that most of Shinawatra's "support" is found only at the polls, where outright cash is handed to voters who are organized and brought to polling stations via Tammany Hall-style caravans, all in the hope of cashing in on fantastical promises of "handouts" if Shinawatra is again put into office.

Such handouts included literal cash dumped into village funds, loans for cars and houses no one needed or could afford, and most recently (and most disastrously) a rice subsidy so poorly conceived the damage it did to Thailand's rice industry is still being felt by millions of farmers the country over.

Political Quagmire vs Pragmatic Progress 

The PDRC's foundation and Thailand in general has two possible avenues to travel down. The nation can continue down the increasingly centralized and overbearing Western-style form of governance found creeping into Thailand even before Shinawatra's rise to power, where the state increasingly feeds on its own people to sustain its inefficient, ultimately unsustainable bureaucracy and all the incompetence and corruption inherent within such systems. Or power can be decentralized locally, where the people determine their future not at the polls every 4 years, but through direct, pragmatic solutions.

Community gardens, farmer-to-city markets, localized power grids leveraging breakthroughs in alternative energy, localized and indepdent supplemental educational programs, and institutions that work locally on technical solutions but collaborate nationally - all serve to make stronger, self-sufficient communities and in turn, make Thailand a stronger nation.

While indeed, such a paradigm shift will have an impact on the greed and grip on power Thailand's special interests currently hold, it will not spell the end of them. However, should Thailand choose to continue amid its current and continuous political quagmire, the foreign interests bent on destabilizing and upturning Thailand's political order will inevitably fully displace and entirely destroy these local interests.

Long-term prosperity, even for the special interests, hinges on peace and stability. Peace and stability stem in turn from a balance of power, both between Thailand and its neighbors, and within Thailand across various social strata. Leaving one group disadvantaged opens the door of opportunity for insidious interests seeking a pretext to stir up violence and political instability - searching for a loose shingle that could potentially blow the whole roof off the current political establishment.

Thailand's established political order surely is wise enough to understand such a balance of power, while in the short-term will impact their bottom line, will in the long-term ensure their survival.

With or Without the PDRC, Progress 

Whether the PDRC's transformation into a foundation means it will pursue real grassroots progress or not - tangible programs that will see a real investment in building up local communities individually and in turn building the nation up as a whole - doesn't stop those who helped swell PDRC's ranks from mobilizing on their own to strive toward progress.

Groups of PDRC protesters that organized together in support of ousting the Shinawatra regime, can organize again - this time for pragmatism and real progress. Establishing a community garden, or connecting farmers from their home provinces to customers in Bangkok or getting themselves off the national power grid through alternative power sources and helping others do the same, are the first few tentative steps we can begin taking to build stronger, independent, and more self-sufficient communities, immune to the sociopolitical manipulation of politicians, their empty promises, and all the heartbreak and bloodshed that comes with them.

Surely the PDRC understands the best way to prevent Shinawatra or one like him from threatening Thailand again in the future is to drain the swamps of ignorance with improved education, drain the swamps of destitution with localized economic development, and drain the swamps of greed, corruption, and special interests by decentralizing power away from national and international monopolies and replacing them with sustainable and superior local alternatives.

Proving Ideals are Superior Through Actions Rather than Words 

Such pragmatism is the perfect opportunity to distinguish the political and ideological convictions of those who protested in 2013-2014 from the corrosive, violent, and exploitative means and methods of Shinawatra and his political machine. It is also a means of setting an example of how to truly advocate your ideology - through actions - not disruptive protests, public stunts, and constant complaining.

Image: Rather than merely protest the regime of Thaksin Shinawatra and his nepotist proxy, Yingluck Shinawatra over their disastrous rice subsidy program that left a million farmers unpaid and the entirety of Thailand's rice industry in shambles, Buddha Issara turned his protest site into a defacto rice mill and farmers' market to show by deed how to actually solve the nation's problems - a unique feature absent of Thaksin Shinawatra's "red shirt" mobs and other US-backed "color revolutions" around the world serving a purely political agenda.

During the PDRC protests in 2013-2014, one example stood out above all others in this regard, that of  Buddhist monk and activist Luang Pu Buddha Issara, whose protest site became a defacto rice mill and farmers' market for cheated farmers reeling in desperation under the disastrous policies of Thaksin Shinawatra and his nepotist proxy, Yingluck Shinawatra (his sister). Buddha Issara didn't merely condemn the government and demand that it step down. He set an example of how to truly help farmers - and indeed, literally helped them, day by day, by milling and selling rice that was otherwise unmerchantable.

Take that example, and multiply it by every group of PDRC protesters who truly want to see Thailand move forward, out of a political quagmire and toward pragmatic progress, and a real "revolution" is at hand. Each group could help connect even but a handful of farmers. Each group could link together and establish community gardens in vacant lots, on rooftops, or anywhere else available space can be found. Such gardens could then become centers for other pragmatic, progressive activities, including charity, education, developing and driving local businesses, and much more.

At the end of the year, no matter how meager progress may seem, when pro-Shinawatra students led by USAID-funded facalty at Thammasat University continue their disruptive, childish protests, condemning everyone and offering no solutions, the stark contrast between them and an army of protesters practicing pragmatic progress will be undeniable - drowning out the shrill cries of Shinawatra's astro-turf.

Thailand is at a crossroads indeed, the march of time will push the Thai people forward. It is up to them in which direction.