Every so often, especially when they feel somehow threatened or they feel the need to promote royalism, officials, royalists and various posterior polishers sit around and ask, “What can we do to remind the plebians about how great they have to think the monarch is?”
Often the answer is to reinvigorate the promotion of the homily called sufficiency economy. This time, however, the parroting of sufficiency economy comes at a time when ultra-royalists are reinventing “Thai-style democracy” as “sufficiency democracy.”
Of course, wiser heads than us at PPT have always cautioned that hyphens and prefixes linked to democracy usually mean no democracy at all. That’s very true in this case.
At the Bangkok Post, the most recent effort to put a bit of spit on the sufficiency economy claptrap and buff it is reported. This time the posterior shiners wheeled out are a mix of aged royal knee-walkers, an yellow-shirted senator and the star of the show is former Democrat Party politician Supachai Panitchpakdi.
Supachai is remarkable for being boss of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), an organization that was once exceptional but has fallen into virtual oblivion under his uninspired leadership and bureaucratic style. He’s usually brought to Thailand when the Democrat Party is thinking about a new leader.
The Post begins its account with a remarkable bit of nonsense that poses sufficiency economy as an alternative “system that can replace a capitalist democracy…”. This is attributed to Supachai who seems to see sufficiency economy as addressing “imbalances include economic inequalities, global warming and food security.”
Recall that the place most likely to be interested in this “theory” is Thailand, with the highest inequality in Asia and relatively high levels of greenhouse gases, along with agriculture that has long struggled to improve productivity.
Supachai was speaking at a two-day “international conference” on “The Meaning of the Sufficiency Economy”. If they don’t know by now….
He came up with unremarkable notions about “shifting the emphasis to a household perspective, the informal economy and personal values such as a a sense of self-support, compassion and community spirit.” Along with “prudence” and “moderation,” the latter values are common to most of the world’s religions, so nothing definitive for sufficiency economy there. Thailand’s informal sector is huge, and that’s one reason why incomes are relatively low and inequality is high.
Then Supachai forgets himself and the wrap he is meant to be giving sufficiency economy and speaks of a “new ideology which values global trade and investment, allowing a flourishing middle class and is more accommodating to the masses, is also in the making…”. We wonder if he means social democracy? That would have little to do with the anti-democratic ideas about sufficiency economy and sufficiency democracy.
Other polishers of the royal “theory” included none other than the president of the fabulously rich Crown Property Bureau, Chirayu Isarangkun, who spoke of the “value of moderation has to be upheld.” We guess that having $37 billion in the CPB kitty speaks to that.
Another participant was privy councilor General Surayud Chulanont, who has large collections of houses, millionaire watches and a penchant for expensive cars. Also there was Paiboon Wattanasiritham, a minister in the junta-appointed government of aged men in 2006 and the yellow-hued Rosana Tositrakul.
The last time sufficiency economy was in the news and paired with sufficiency democracy was when Abhisit Vejjajiva bleated about it at the U.N. That soon faded from memory and we assume that this current effort will follow the same path.