Sunday, March 15, 2015

Thailand: Burying Land-House Tax Bill Shows Government is Listening

When an "unelected government" becomes more representative of the people than an "elected" one." 

March 15, 2015 (Tony Cartalucci - ATN) - It was announced recently that the reviled, highly unpopular land and house tax bill proposed by the Thai government will be indefinitely shelved. This is good news for millions of Thais who understand that once one pays to live on their land or in their house, it no longer is "their" land or house and what once was private property, then becomes a "rental property" owned in all but deed by the Finance Ministry.

Some believe the land and house tax bill was simply a matter of people resisting taxes during an already economically uncertain time, and insist that "extra revenue" is necessary and the bill must still be inevitably rolled out. One such view was expressed in Bangkok Post's op-ed space. This is, however, not the case.

The idea of free people becoming tenants on their own land above all stirred opposition to the land and house tax bill, not the perceived financial burden it would cost amid an already shaky economy.

However, regardless, the government appears to have taken the widespread backlash to heart, reacting quickly and reversing the proposal. Part of that quick reaction may have been spurred by the fact that the ousted regime of Thaksin Shinawatra and his political party appeared to be positioning themselves to use the growing point of contention as a means to propel themselves back into popularity and political relevancy.

Some will argue the reversal was a sign of weakness, others can easily argue that it was the government simply doing what all representative governments are supposed to do - listen and respond to the people - particularly when a reasoned, logical, well-informed opposition voices specific concern regarding policy and legislation - which is precisely what many segments of the Thai population began doing in the face of the proposed tax bill.

How an "Unelected Government" Becomes More Representative Than an "Elected" One 

The widespread opposition to this recent tax proposal by an "unelected" government is not unlike what happened when the previous "elected" government of Yingluck Shinawatra proposed the reviled "amnesty bill." The amnesty bill would have exonerated politicians, particularly those associated with the Shinawatra family, of serial offenses (including corruption, human rights abuses, and mass murder) committed since Yingluck Shinawatra's brother, Thaksin Shinawatra first came to power in 2001. 

The bill was also viewed as one of several major steps required to bring Thaksin Shinawatra, currently hiding abroad from a 2 year jail sentence and multiple pending court cases, back to Thailand to once again seize power. The bill was reviled by Shinawatra's opponents for the obvious fact that it was a brazen attempt to circumvent justice, while Shinawatra's own supporters protested it because it would also "exonerate" Shinawatra's opponents for perceived slights against his political machine. In essence, no one but the politicians pushing it through, supported it. 

The growing backlash resulted in demonstrations that would end up materializing into the largest Thailand has seen in recent history, and eventually lead to the ouster of Shinawatra from power via a peaceful military coup.  

Here, the Shinawatra regime believing it had an unassailable "electoral mandate," perceived it had no further obligation to heed the voice of the people after elections in 2011. Furthermore, it believed its one-time electoral mandate elevated them above the rule of law. In other words, they believed a win on election day was carde blanche to do as they pleased.

In contrast, the current "unelected" government headed by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha has listened to the people and responded to their concerns. This is not the first time the government has done this either. An unpopular round of oil concession talks was also postponed after growing concerns over how it would be conducted and what would become of Thailand's natural resources became a growing point of contention across several segments of Thai society. 

While the looming danger of bureaucrats forcing free people to pay to live in their own homes and on their own land remains - particularly because similarly medieval practices have been codified into legislation and defended by thieving bureaucrats elsewhere around the world, including in the United States - we have witnessed an example of an "unelected" government being more representative and responsive to the will of the people than the "elected" regime it has come into power to replace.

This exposes the myth of "democratically elected" governments being "representative" simply because they were voted into power on the back of highly controversial, scandalous election campaigns. For a government to be truly representative, it must practice daily the shelving of self-serving proposals, along with its pride, to heed to the best interests of the people. 

The current government has done this where the previous had failed miserably to do so. And while the West insists the current government is a "dictatorship," it was the "elected" regime of Thaksin Shinawatra though his nepotist appointed sister Yingluck Shinawatra, who dictated policy, against the expressed will of the people, to the extent that their "electoral mandate" was by necessity revoked.