Korn on class

19 08 2010

Finance Minister Korn Chatikavanij was recently interviewed in Newsweek. Pretty mundane stuff, but two selections caught PPT’s eye.

Towards the end of the interview, Korn is asked: “How will your government address the underlying social and economic problems brought to light by the so-called red-shirt protesters?”

He responds, stating inter alia: “A second approach is addressing the issues that were raised: social inequality and poverty, issues that the government takes very seriously. For instance, we are working to refinance all loan-shark debt, which has been a cancer in our system. We’ve refinanced over 400,000 individual accounts. We need to do more of this and make people realize the government makes them a priority. They don’t need to protest.”

He seems to be saying that people protested because of economic issues – poverty, inequality, loan sharking. But then the interviewer asks: “The Western narrative of the protests this spring was that it was a class struggle between urban and rural Thais. Is this accurate?” Confusing given Korn’s statement above, he answers this racist question by saying: “I don’t believe the Western narrative is correct. There is a genuine income-distribution gap. There are genuine differences in people’s access to resources. All of these need to be addressed as quickly as we can. Arguably this government has done more for the poor than any recent government [sic.]. The big truth is these inequalities do exist, but the big lie was that this was what the conflict was about. It wasn’t. The conflict was really [deposed prime minister] Thaksin Shinawatra and his supporters wanting to regain power, wanting to overturn the corruption conviction against him, and wanting to get back his ill-gotten assets.”

So why did Korn initially say that inequality, poverty and so on were economic issues “that were raised” by the red shirt protests? He seems to have is argument confused. But he gets back on the royalist track when when he adds: “What we’re really facing is a small group of instigators trying to overthrow the core pillars of Thailand.” PPT presumes he means the monarchy. Or does the Democrat Party now rank as a “core pillar”?

Racism: PPT calls this a racist question because there’s nothing peculiarly Western about the discussion of class struggle in Thailand. Making it a “Western” construction is demeaning of Thais (amongst others). Worse, Korn unambiguously accepts the racist construction when he knows that many Thais, including some close to his government, have had the same narrative. He says it himself, before backtracking.


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