Free trips at taxpayers' expense disguised as "study trips" or "seminars" create obligations to vote for politicians.
COMMENTARY: Free trips at taxpayers' expense by Somporn Thapanachai
Thailand is approaching a general election following Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva's statement that he will dissolve Parliament next month. We can expect vastly increased spending as people seem to have more cash in hand. It's the pre-election atmosphere.
What I have noticed from last year up till now is that many of my neighbours and other people I know, especially housewives, have gone on free domestic junkets and overseas trips.
In the last two weeks, around 500 people took a trip to Nakhon Nayok and hundreds of others went to Kanchanaburi, Chiang Rai, Rayong and other provinces. Also, some 100 people earlier went to China and India. They all went without having to spend a single satang from their own pockets.
You may wonder what these people did that entitled them to such free trips. The answer is: they are voters who have been sponsored by politicians, mostly MPs, in their areas. Officially these trips are called "seminars and study tours" but the reality is they are not."
Such trips are known as a way of strengthening the relationship between politicians and voters. Such junkets are organised more frequently once it is clear that Parliament is to be dissolved, and the "travelling season" normally ends just before the house dissolution takes place and election campaigning begins, so that MPs who sponsor the trips cannot to be held in violation of election laws.
My cheerful neighbour who came back from one such trip told me that the MP who organised her trip had urged her to vote for him again. If re-elected, the MP promises to give many things. This neighbour was told that if the MP did not get re-elected, then the elderly would not receive their 500-baht monthly welfare allowance.
I have never joined such trips, nor received an invitation. I once asked a community leader in my area who was responsible for handpicking the travellers for a politician, how these "tourists" were selected. He told me there are two groups of voters in the political world: the "fenced homes" and "non-fenced homes."
For politicians, fenced homes are well-educated families working in private firms and government agencies. Non-fenced homes include people living in slums and blocks of flats, who are traders, street vendors and those who earn income on a daily basis. Only the non-fenced group will be offered a free trip.
People living in fenced homes are regarded as "non-existent" by most politicians who view this group as generally not casting their ballots.
I have observed the situation and realised that the money spent on these travels is also my money. Why? Because politicians will never spend their own money on any "seminar" project. They will instead propose the project to related government agencies to seek a budget by citing the purpose of "human resources development."
So, the source of these seminar budgets is the taxes that we all pay. I believe all readers pay tax in some way or other, whether it is personal income tax, corporate income tax or the value-added tax collected on goods you buy everyday.
So, wouldn't I be right to say that those voters have been travelling on my money.
I am happy for my non-fenced neighbours, who normally do not have the opportunity to go on a leisure trip that comes with free food and accommodation. I am happy that they have the chance of getting something back from the politicians.
But on second thought, I am angry that these politicians spend the country's budget to canvass for themselves. They spend public money to create the image of a "Santa Claus" for themselves by offering free gifts and free trips to voters. It then become a righteous obligation for these voters to return such generosity by casting their votes for the politician who "sponsored" their trip.
Such a practice is also the process by which politicians establish their canvassers. It is sad that our country's politicians think only of themselves and do not really care for the public interest.
Somporn Thapanachai is Deputy Business Editor, Bangkok Post.
(Source: Bangkok Post, COMMENTARY, Free trips at taxpayers' expense, 20/04/2011, Somporn Thapanachai, link)
election - the process of choosing a person or a group of person for a position, especially by voting elect (v) electoral (adj) synonym: the polls การเลือกตั้ง
general election - "an election in which all or most members of parliament are up for election, different from by-elections or local elections (See Wikipedia)
MP - Member of Parliament, a person elected by people living in a certain area (constituency) to represent them in parliament
house - House of Representatives, the lower house of parliament (the legislature) which is elected by and represents the interests of people living in small local areas (consituencies) สภา
dissolved - (of a group) ended ยุบ (พรรค) no longer existing ที่ถูกยุบ
dissolution - the formal act of ending an organisation การยุบ ยุบ ยุติ
house dissolution - ending the sitting parliament so then an election must be held to elect new members
dissolve Parliament - same as "House dissolution"
election campaign (noun) - an organized effort to win more votes before an election and then win the election (See Wikipedia)
election campaigning (verb)
cast vote for - vote for a politician in an election
junket - a free trip or meeting that says it is for some serious purpose (business, study) but is actually for pleasure
taxpayers - people who pay taxes (who don't want to see their hard-earned money wasted) ผู้เสียภาษี
at taxpayers' expense - it is people who pay taxes who are actually paying for indirectly (because the politicians are using money obtained from taxes
care for the public interest - doing what is best for all the people in the country
elderly - (of people) old, over age 65 สูงวัย, อาวุโส, อายุมาก
welfare - living in good conditions (with health, wealth, and happiness) ความสะดวกสบาย, ความมีสุขภาพดี, สวัสดิภาพ
welfare - help given, especially by the state or an organization, to people who need it; good care and living conditions สวัสดิภาพ
allowance - an amount of money that someone receives in order to pay for the things that they need เงินสนับสนุน, เบี้ยเลี้ยง
community leader - a person who organizes activities in an area (and looks after the needs of people who live there)
community - local people, the people living in one particular area ชุมชน
slum - a poor area of town where all the houses are in bad condition สลัม
blocks of flats - groups of many apartment buildings located next to each other
traders - people who buy and sell things for a living
vendors - people who sell things, e.g., food or newspapers, usually outside on the street พ่อค้าแม่่ค้าหาบแร่แผงลอย
income - money that people receive from work or some other source, used for household consumption and savings
earn income on a daily basis - they make money each day by running a business (or performing a service such as motorcycle taxi), do not receive a monthly salary from the government or companies
income tax - a percentage of income paid as tax to the government
personal income tax - a percentage of a person's annual income paid to the government as tax (See Wikipedia)
corporate income tax - a percentage of the income of a large company (corporation) paid to the government as tax (See Wikipedia)
Value-Added Tax (VAT) - a tax on the amount by which the value of an article has been increased at each stage of its production or distribution (See Wikipedia)
budget - an amount of money able to be spent on something งบประมาณ the amounts of money that an organisation has available to spend on different things during a period (See Wikipedia)
resources - the materials, money, and other things needed for a person or organisation to function properly, things that you have that can be used to achieve goals ทรัพยากรที่มีอยู่
development - the gradual growth and formation of something
human resources development - improving the skills, knowledge and performance of workers in a company, organization or even a whole economy
canvass - trying to get support for a candidate or political party in a particular area หาเสียง เรียกคะแนนให้
canvasser - a person who has the job of getting votes for a political candidate
vastly increased - increased by a very large amount (so that it is much much bigger than it is now)
cash - money เงินสด
cash in hand - have extra money that they can spend on things now (don't need to borrow money)
atmosphere - the mood or feeling that exists in a place บรรยากาศ
housewife (singular noun) - a wife who stays home and looks after the home and children แม่บ้าน
housewives (plural noun) - a group of people who are all a "housewife"
domestic - within the country ภายในประเทศ
entitled - having the right to have or do something มีสิทธิโดยชอบ
X entitled to Y - X has the right to receive Y (by law or by virtue of position or who they are...etc)
X sponsored by Y - Y paid for X
reality - what is actually happening ความเป็นจริง (versus what people think is happening or what people are pretending in their imagination is happening)
clear - easy to understand
sponsor - to support a person, organization or activity by giving money, encouragement or other help อุปถัมภ์, สนับสนุน
violation - an action that is against a law, agreement, principle, etc. การฝ่าฝืนกฎหมาย
cheerful - happy and positive สดชื่น, ร่าเริง
urged - requested them to do something, begged them to do it, advised someone very strongly about what action should be taken วิงวอน
invitation - a written or spoken request asking someone to spend time with you socially or to come to a social event การเชิญ
handpick - when a person is chosen for a position, specially chosen for a certain purpose
realised - understood
spent - used ที่ใช้ไป
citing - mentioning as a reason ให้ อ้างอิงเหตุผล
source - the place or person something comes from or starts at, or the cause of something ต้นกำเนิด, แหล่งกำเนิด
opportunity - a situation when it is possible to do something that you want to do (See glossary)
leisure - not working, taking it easy
accommodation - a place to stay while traveling
chance - what happens when you don't control events (example: gambling = games of chance)
But on second thought,... - an additional thought...thinking more deeply about a subject....analyzing it
image - the picture of something that people have in their mind, what people think about something ภาพลักษณ์
righteous - when a person feels very strongly that they are doing the right thing and expresses this attitude so other people can see it (for example, morally right, expressing righteous anger against an illegal abortion clinic)
obligation - something that you must do
generosity - kindness, especially in giving things to people ความกรุณา
sponsor - pay for
practice - something that people do regularly, a way of doing something การปฏิบัติ
process - a series of actions that you take in order to achieve a result แนวทางปฏิบัติ, กระบวน, วิธีการ
establish - to start something new like a company or organization (or canvasser) that will likely continue for a long time สถาปนา, ก่อตั้ง, จัดตั้ง
Latest stories in this category:
- Tornado hits Oklahoma City suburb (updated)
- Gold will rise again
- 3G finally here, but too slow
- Thai factories moving to Myanmar
- Rising baht: Dollar borrowing by Thai banks
- Thaksin call-in the highlight of red rally
- Chai explains "evil woman" Facebook posting
- Research breakthrough: Stem cells from human skin cells