Lots of promises as big day approaches
published : 2 Apr 2023 at 05:00
newspaper section: Oped
With the Great Event, otherwise known as election day, just around the corner, like most countries in the world we will have to brace ourselves for regular helpings of political poppycock including plenty of promises from prospective candidates. Still, it could be fun.
We can also expect "spontaneous" rallies by supporters of certain luminaries. Which brings us to British author George Orwell.
In his 1945 novel Animal Farm, Orwell wrote of the porker-in-chief: "Napoleon commanded that once a week there should be something held called a Spontaneous Demonstration." Some of the recent political gatherings have had a certain Orwellian feel about them, especially when it comes to "spontaneity".
As always policies seem a bit thin on the ground, but there have already been plenty of pledges that things will improve. We will soon be witnessing entertaining scenes of overweight politicians on expeditions to the provinces, no doubt donning a pakoma to show they are true men of the soil and not just city slickers. Once they are elected it will be back to the city and the reality of business suits, brandy and possibly broken promises.
One manoeuvre that might puzzle outside observers is how MPs appear to be able to change allegiance at will without any qualms. It resembles a bizarre variation of musical chairs. It would be nice to think that such moves are a result of MPs with strong ideals taking a firm ethical stance.
Or could it be that they just want to be on the winning side?
Spontaneity in action
Many years ago the Post carried a report about a taxi driver who was parked near a political rally.
Someone came up to him and offered him 300 baht to mingle with the crowd for a couple of hours, shout "chaiyo" every now and again and cheer on cue. He leapt at the chance especially as he was also offered a free meal.
In addition he was given a flower garland to present to someone important, although he had no idea who it was. At least it gave him a welcome break from the Bangkok traffic.
At one event the organisers seriously underestimated the number of rural people who were "spontaneously" trucked to a Bangkok rally and there were far more villagers than garlands.
An alert aide arranged that as soon as the politician received a garland it was quickly recycled to the back of the queue so that the villagers could offer the VIP the same garlands he had already just been given. Some of the garlands looked decidedly the worse for wear the third time around.
A word of warning for all candidates -- if possible stay clear of khlongs and rivers. In nearly every election at least one politician has taken a tumble into murky brown waters while campaigning. In the 2011 election one candidate was cheered by supporters as he boarded a boat to Taling Chan. As he stepped onto the vessel the candidate went one way and the boat the other and the poor fellow plunged into the not so pristine waters of the Chao Phraya.
Fortunately he was hauled to safety, emerging with that embarrassed grin reserved for politicians who have just realised they have made a fool of themselves.
On another occasion a leading politician and his entourage were unceremoniously dumped into a khlong on the outskirts of Bangkok after too many of them tried to cross a rickety wooden footbridge at the same time. At least the politician made the front pages but not quite in the way intended.
Ask the Finns
At election time it certainly helps the government if the people have smiles on their faces. Unfortunately the recently released UN-sponsored World Happiness Report placed Thailand an unflattering 60th in the happiness ranking around the world, not exactly what you would expect from the Land of Smiles. Finland topped the charts for the sixth successive year which is quite a feat for a country which can suffer extremely cold weather, something regarded as not particularly conducive to happiness.
Why are the Finns so happy? According to an official, "our happiness stems from a balanced way of life, supported by good governance, trust, wellbeing and equality". It sounds so simple. It is also worth noting that Finland is regarded as one of the least corrupt countries in the world.
You may recall back in 2014 the Thai authorities launched a bold "Return Happiness to the Thai People" campaign to bring back the smiles. So this latest report suggests there is perhaps still some work to do. Although we have not quite reached the level of Les Miserables, citizens are not exactly dancing in the streets.
The happiness campaign actually began quite well. We experienced happy concerts, happy haircuts, happy noodles, happy massages, happy hamsters, happy hedgehogs and even happy traffic jams. Most of it was also free, something that always goes down well in Thailand.
We await the build-up to the May 14 election with nervous anticipation. But let's give our pillars of society the benefit of the doubt. As philosopher Bertrand Russell once commented: "Our great democracies still tend to think a stupid man is more likely to be honest than a clever man, and our candidates take advantage of this by pretending to be more stupid than nature made them."
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Bangkok Post columnist
A long time popular Bangkok Post columnist. In 1994 he won the Ayumongkol Literary Award. For many years he was Sports Editor at the Bangkok Post.
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