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Emerging-markets expert and publisher of the monthly investment newsletter The Gloom, Boom & Doom Report
Thaksin has the support of the rural population, but the urban population in Bangkok is strongly opposed to him, especially the intellectuals. They argue that he is buying votes in the countryside, which is to some extent true. Voters in the countryside are shipped to rallies in buses and given free food. But this isn't something unique to Thailand or Thaksin by any means. It is the dark side of democracy. Many other politicians all over the world do the same thing.
Thaksin did not have to pay income tax on the Shin Corp. sale. It's not illegal, but it's not particularly ethical. As one of the richest men in the country and its top politician, he doesn't exactly show a good moral example to the business community or the country. If he had just paid the tax, none of this probably would have happened. It's a matter of, say, paying $200 million, which is not the end of the world when you are getting over a billion.
Even if this drags on for some time, I don't think it will be a very negative factor for foreign investment. If someone wants to build a factory or buy some shares in Thailand, I don't think they are going to care about this deadlock. There are a number of ways it could end. Thaksin could simply ride this out. Or the army could step in at some point and force him out. Or the King could ask him to resign. But if he is forced out, the problem in Thailand is the same as in many countries where there is a strong leader: who can do a better job? I don't think there is anyone in the opposition who could. The tragedy of Thaksin is that he could have been a very good leader but he bungled it because of his greed and arrogance.
Deputy secretary-general of the opposition Democrat Party, which is boycotting the April election
The Thaksin administration has used the constitution to create a very strong government, but has undermined the counterbalance that was designed to be in place by interfering in the appointments and running of practically every single agency designed to provide the checks. We feel that for the future of democracy in Thailand it's important for us to say enough is enough and not be a part of Thaksin's system.
The boycott has forced everyone to stop and think. Had we gone along with the election in a business-as-usual attitude, people could have been fooled into thinking there's nothing wrong with the political system. Even if people don't necessarily agree with our view, at least they're asking what our argument is. And that, hopefully, will lead to political and social pressure for change.
Where we've been relatively weak as an opposition is in being able to paint a clear picture of what the public could expect if we were running the country. The public has every right to question what to expect post-Thaksin. The Thaksin administration has played on this. The question they want people to ask is: If not Thaksin, then who? To me, it's a ridiculous question and an insult to Thailand. We have 60-million-plus people and nobody to replace Thaksin?
The only thing Thaksin can do is continue with the election and immediately appoint a nonpartisan body with a mandate to recommend political reform. But given all he's done to destroy the true intent of the constitution, he has no moral right to lead political reform in the future.
Thaksin government spokesman
We are aware that the protests and demonstrations have created an uncomfortable situation in our country, so the Prime Minister has decided to dissolve parliament, to let the people decide after they've heard from the protesters and from the government side. Let's see who will be trusted by the people. If the number of people who don't vote and vote for other parties exceeds the number that vote for Thai Rak Thai, Mr. Thaksin has said he won't be the Prime Minister. He has also said that after the election he'll move quickly to amend the constitution. We'll have an independent commission. Then we'll dissolve the parliament again and hold another vote, no later than 15 months after this election.
Many people should join hands to solve this problem. That's why the Prime Minister is open to talks with any opposition leader, anyone from the protest movement, so we can come up with a good solution. We admit some things need to be improved. Public participation in the political process could be better. This includes academics, NGOs, local governments. We need to control corruption and improve transparency in the bureaucracy. But if 100,000 protesters can come onto the streets and ask for any government member to resign, next time they'll do it again. Then how can we develop a mature democracy?