One indication that the junta is looking at longevity is is vicious crackdown on activists, many of whom (but not all) are from the middle class. Yet another indicator is the regime’s populism for the middle class to shore up wavering political support in this core constituency for authoritarian regimes.
Yes, we know, the middle class is theoretically considered to bolster democracy, but at least in the Thai case, this has long been a nonsense.
In recent days, the military dictatorship has come up with at least two populist gifts for the middle class. The first is a reduction in fines for traffic offenses. Khaosod reports that, as a new year “gift”:
88 police stations in Bangkok will reduce traffic tickets to 100 baht starting today until next month….
The exemption will be effective for ‘non-serious’ crimes for which the fine is less than 1,000 baht, such as not having a driving license or not wearing a helmet or seat belt.
Given the horrendous road toll in Thailand, promoting reduced fines seems like another daft idea.
The second is for middle-class consumers. The Bangkok Post reports that the junta:
… will allow shoppers a tax deduction of up to 15,000 baht on receipted goods and services purchased during the festive season, from Dec 25-31, as a New Year gift to the people.
The Finance Ministry proposed the measure to the cabinet meeting on Tuesday, with an official announcement expected on Friday.
Shoppers will have buy from businesses registered for value added tax (VAT) and will need to get a full receipt with the seller’s tax registration included.
The allowable deductions will not include liquor, beer, wine, tobacco, cigarettes, vehicle fuel, automobiles, motorcycles and boats.
But think of iPADs, iPhones, big-screen TVs, smartphones, and the myriad other consumer items that may bolster Sino-Thai tycoons’ bottom lines for a while as consumerism increases, but will not add much to GDP growth.
Imagine the hullabaloo if an elected government did this. Recall the howls of protest when the Yingluck Shinawatra government established a floor price for rice that potentially moved funds to the poorest Thais. Obviously, in the land of The Dictator, the middle class is the constituency that matters.