Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Rice Farmers Revolt? A Solution to Thailand's "Class War"

Regime fails to follow through on unsustainable rice buying scam - now is the time to show nation & world anti-regime protests' true colors. 

Regime's rice scheme leaves rice rotting in warehouses.
December 11, 2013 (Tony Cartalucci) - The prospect of dissent spreading across the regime's rural northeast stronghold appears to have heightened as rice farmers who supported the regime specifically for its "rice buying scheme" have been left unpaid since October and are now threatening to block roads in up to 26 provinces. Bangkok Post's article, "Unpaid rice farmers threaten action ," reports:
Rice farmers are threatening to block roads in 26 provinces if the government fails to pay money they are owed from the 2013/2014 main crop.

Prasit Boonchoey, Thai Rice Farmers Association president, said most rice farmers have not been paid since October.

He said the farmers need the money to invest in planting new crops.

Mr Prasit said the Commerce Ministry needs to do more than merely complain the government is short of funds. He said the ministry's response goes against cabinet ministers' assurances that the government can afford the scheme.

He said the farmers may have to block roads to pressure the government into taking action.
This presents a two-fold opportunity for anti-regime protesters who have already shaken the regime to its core with two unprecedented nation-wide mass mobilizations, forcing the government to dissolve the Parliament and call for new elections.

First, anti-regime protesters can lay to rest the myth that this is a struggle between "rich and poor." By openly inviting rice farmers to join anti-regime protests and giving them a voice in the growing movement, no longer can the regime pose as the exclusive defender of the poor.

Second, it presents the opportunity to propose a sustainable program to assist rice farmers - one that will illustrate how the regime has not actually been defending the poor, but rather exploiting them with crass vote-buying scams that were never designed to improve the lives of the electorate.

Giving Thailand's Rice Farmers a Seat at the Table

Anti-regime protesters must reach out to leaders stepping forward to represent disenfranchised, cheated rice farmers. A specific position within the movement should be made to give a voice to explaining the hardships now faced by farmers who remain unpaid - left in desperate dependency on a regime because of their unsustainable promises that should never have been made in the the first place.

This would serve to give anti-regime protesters a better understanding of the regime's current constituency and defuse the intentional "strategy of tension" the regime is trying to use to pit protesters against the rural poor. It will also turn adversarial posturing into a mutual effort to solve a national problem.

Offering Sustainable Alternatives 

Rice farmers encouraged to depend on the regime's reckless populist policies need relief now - a plan by economists and the business community to quickly restore confidence in the nation's rice markets both at home and abroad, as well as a means to get cash into the hands of farmers to meet immediate needs, must be devised.

While the protests have the numbers, and rice farmers become increasingly disenfranchised, now would be the time to root out the corruption that exists between the rice farmers and customers - in other words, the notorious thieving middlemen who have thrived as the regime squats on rural rice farmers.

Also a long-term development plan must be implemented to give rice farmers the ability to mill and distribute their own rice through smaller, more decentralized collectives.

Other long-term plans aimed at increasing sustainable income indefinitely for farmers must also be devised. Money that would otherwise simply be thrown to farmers (and then quickly run out) should be instead invested in SME entrepreneurial centers that offer rice farmers the skills they need to diversity their economic activities either horizontally across the field of agriculture or vertically into other industries. Decentralized rice farming collectives could be expanded to also process and distribute produce from these programs.

Image: Steps in opening a franchise. Open-source franchise micro-loans and training swapped out for the torrents of cash now being wasted in the regime's rice buying scheme could offer the rural poor real opportunities to permanently improve their lives - as well as escape from under exploitative political patronage systems. A sustainable means of increasing income for rice farmers is by offering them opportunities to diversify their economic activities. If rice farmers choose to leave agriculture, those that remain will receive more for their harvests through stable market mechanisms, not cash handouts. (image: franchise direct) 

Open source franchises - where people are given micro-loans, training, and proven blueprints to buy and build up coffee stands, small restaurants, repair shops, retailing space, and other small, fool-proof businesses to supplement income could be an interim solution between immediate financial relief and long-term reforms in the rural north's dismal educational system - left to rot intentionally for decades by the regime and its predecessors to keep people purposefully dependent on the Shinawatra political machine.

Many of these solutions are already being implemented, however, the money currently being used to simply buy off segments of the population from election to election, could be better used to vastly expand and improve these programs to reach a much wider number of people.

To speed up the process with which these programs are implemented (and therefore begin improving lives) existing infrastructure should be utilized. This also cuts out opportunities for graft. By using existing schools in the evening to train & equip aspiring entrepreneurs, for example, removes the necessity to immediately build official "centers" to carry out the program.

Defusing the "Class War" Myth

While it might seem counter intuitive for many of the larger interests standing opposed to Thaksin Shinawatra to use large sums of money on the poor - by now it should be abundantly clear that selfish, myopic greed and the ignoring of the rural masses is the reason despotism like the Shinwatra regime was able to rise in the first place. By ensuring the interests of the rural people are met, the more influential interests threatened by the current regime (and those with most to lose if Shinawatra prevails) ensure their own interests are safeguarded.

This is not a nation of one, or one group of people, but rather a nation of many groups. Dissatisfaction amongst one can be easily manipulated into a battering ram with which to attack another. In fact, the Shinawatra regime is, if nothing else, a prime example of this - new money exploiting the poor to become the sole ruling elite of Thailand, never with any real intention of improving the lot of those they exploited to achieve socioeconomic supremacy.

Take the wind out of the sails of this insidious methodology, and restore Thailand to a balance of power within which everyone together can work to meaningfully and pragmatically to improve their lives, families, and communities.

Reaching out to farmers with real, sustainable solutions will help defuse the intentionally fanned flames of "class war" the regime and its Western backers are attempting to use to keep the country divided and at least one segment of the population trapped within the noxious clouds of the regime's political machine.

By embracing the rural poor in a concerted, pragmatic manner, the anti-regime movement can no longer be portrayed as "Bangkokian snobs" thumbing their nose at the downtrodden masses. Instead, the same ingenuity and cooperation that ran circles around the regime's police during the uprising, can be turned toward solving some of the nation's most enduring problems - and truly eradicate the regime's source of power at its very root.

And by devising and implementing real, sustainable solutions that will truly lift the poor from their current lot in life, it will expose entirely the regime's primary, exploitative mechanism for maintaining power. Defenders of the poor they are not - and it is time for someone to step forward and truly solve the crux of the problems facing the regime's rural northeast stronghold - problems that have created the very edifice upon which Thaksin Shinawatra now stands.