Anand pontificates

23 06 2013

In a post several days ago, PPT commented on a 2Bangkok.com editorial. In that editorial it was noted that, “In Thai culture in general, it is expected that the elite and educated pass judgment on others….”. At the time, PPT explained that this is wrong, arguing that it is the elite that decide they have this position; the cultural bit is that years of military terror means that it is grudgingly accepted by the populace.

AnandThe same editorial briefly noted that the lining up of support for a coup, judicial or military, involved “expressions of disapproval and concern from military figures, those in the state bureaucracy, and elder statesmen (like Anand Panyarachun who this week spoke out against the government).”

It has taken us a while to get to it, but we thing the speech by the patrician Anand is the one reported in the Bangkok Post a few days ago. We won’t go through it all, and he does say some useful things about inequality, but let’s look at some bits of it, as the patrician pontificates. Anand begins on corporate governance:

Effectively addressing the issue of corporate governance in Thailand requires us to look at the broader picture of governance in the public as well as private sectors. The first occasion I spoke on this issue goes back as far back as 1998. At that time, the country was in the throes of the Asian Financial Crisis. I had attributed the 1997 crisis specifically then to the failure of institution-building.

The problem of institution-building in Thailand is that the royalist elite – of which Anand is a central figure – has spent eight decades destroying nascent democratic institutions while building the institutional monstrosities of military and monarchy, that tower over state and society, snuffing out political opponents and other institutions that are not aligned with these two pillars. The elite has been aided in this by a sniveling, slithering business class and the controlling and suffocating Ministry of Interior.

When Anand criticizes the corporate governance of “large listed companies which are family-owned,” we wonder if he is thinking of the myriad companies owned by the royal family and run by the Crown Property Bureau? The largest corporate conglomerate in Thailand, while some firms in it have been hailed for their corporate governance, none of these get proper public scrutiny and repeatedly get sweetheart deals from officials because of the royal connection. The CPB is one of the most opaque management outfits in the country.

Anand then skips to a critique of “public governance which, in recent years, has been deteriorating.” As expected from someone bound up in the extreme personalism associated with the monarchy and who is an author of the “all-politicians-are-corrupt-bastards” line, he makes claims of:

increasing political interference, cronyism, favouritism and other forms of unacceptable behaviour that occur when the line between public service and private interests gets blurred.

He continues:

Of most concern is our unstable and polarised politics. Our politics has not served the country and our people well. The pursuit of power and personal interest over the public interest continues to dominate Thai political life.

Anand is essentially making the same point that he has made before, going back to when he was twice an unelected premier: politicians screw things up when the great and powerful are not permitted to get things right for the people (whether they like it or not). The patrician complains that “the current situation gives me cause for concern and discomfort.” Predicting an economic crisis, Anand complains that “the people” see their capacity “to determine their own future is reduced.”

We don’t recall him expressing that he was discomforted by the Abhisit Vejjajiva regime’s murder of it citizenry calling for a new election. He seemed unbothered by the military’s political intervention in 2006, seeing it as the coup we had to have.

He complains of “entrenched patronage networks and cronyism, through which the country’s resources are now unfairly allocated.” In this, Anand is blaming elected politicians for a system created by the tripartite alliance of palace, military and big business. He warns that “Thailand is again at a crossroads” and of “devastating consequences for our future as a nation.”

He is essentially arguing for the standard royalist discourse on democratic politics that is ultimately undemocratic. In academic Thongchai Winichakul’s words,

the prominence of the monarchy was built up by engaging in the development of the parliamentary system. It was so, however, by being the moral authority ‘‘above’’ – on top of, higher than, superior to – the normal political institutions that are considered extremely corrupt. The royalists and the civic movement and intelligentsia, the ‘‘people sector’’ as they called themselves, shared a distrust of politicians. Their implicit alliance generated stronger distrust. They put forward the discourse of ‘‘clean politics’’ that proved to be detrimental even to a powerful politician like Thaksin.

Anand is again making this point. While he making a point about corruption it is in support of a royalist system that does not want to see electoral politics take root. That politics may be flawed, but Anand and his ilk fear that allowing electoral politics to take root and develop is threatening to their political and economic control of the country.


Actions

Information

6 responses

8 07 2013
Democratic oranges and anti-democratic apples | Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] Thailand is riddled with corruption. But this particular “concern” can be shown to be just another restatement of a royalist mantra that is anti-politician and part of the anti-democratic movement to bring down yet another elected […]

8 07 2013
Democratic oranges and anti-democratic apples | Political Prisoners of Thailand

[…] that Thailand is riddled with corruption. But this particular “concern” can be shown to be just another restatement of a royalist mantra that is anti-politician and part of the anti-democratic movement to bring down yet another elected […]

13 10 2013
Surin lost on corruption | Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] We think Surin is being rather too much of a Democrat Party elder in making this point. We suspect that he is lazily linking to the royalist propaganda that only civilian politicians are corrupt bastards. […]

13 10 2013
Surin lost on corruption | Political Prisoners of Thailand

[…] We think Surin is being rather too much of a Democrat Party elder in making this point. We suspect that he is lazily linking to the royalist propaganda that only civilian politicians are corrupt bastards. […]

20 07 2014
“Liberals” do the junta’s work I | Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] context where he also rejected Yingluck Shinawatra and here earlier attempts at reconciliation and repeatedly attacked her government. We have little doubt that, based on his record, Anand had a role in encouraging the most recent […]

1 11 2020
Thinking about the ruling class II | Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] context where he also rejected Yingluck Shinawatra and here earlier attempts at reconciliation and repeatedly attacked her government. We have little doubt that, based on his record, Anand had a role in encouraging the most recent […]