Pheu Thai shoots itself in the foot

Pheu Thai shoots itself in the foot

Mother nature is always fair to Thailand. It gave us Thaksin Shinawatra and then it sent us Prayuth Chan-ocha.

It gave us Sia Piak, Sia Pieng, Je D and more. But then it also sent to us one medical doctor who could diagnose just what these people have done.

The Pheu Thai Party cried foul on Wednesday and Thursday over an event run by the Democrat Party for the launch of a book. It challenged coup leader Gen Prayuth to take action against the Democrats for defying martial law rules barring political gatherings of more than five people. On that Wednesday at the Democrats' head office, there were — quite blatantly — more than five people gathered for the book launch.

Gen Prayuth is smart enough not to fall into the political trap set by Pheu Thai and in fact is looking not a little annoyed about it all. He made clear in his weekly address on Friday that it was not his business.

"Regarding publications, it is a political issue. I am not going to involve myself in this dispute. Please ensure that any publications are just and fair to both sides. The legal team will use laws and evidence to prove their case rather than take the publications into account. It is a legal matter," he said.

He was talking about publications in plural. But in fact, in the present political context, the reality is, it is only about one: The Epic Rice Scheme written by Dr Warong Dechgitvigrom, a Democrat politician and physician by training.

What Pheu Thai is seriously worried about is not the launch event. It's about what is inside that book.

When Pheu Thai was on the campaign trail during the 2011 election, the party (including Yingluck Shinawatra) promised farmers to buy every grain of their rice for 15,000 baht a tonne. That ultra-populist policy easily carried them into parliament. Nobody argued a doomsday scenario for the rice-pledging scheme — especially the big wigs in Pheu Thai.

Politically, the party committed a fatal error in trying to rush Thaksin's return home through the disgraceful amnesty bill. Economically, the rice scheme was even more fatal to it.

The country is still licking its wounds from the losses and the damage caused by this policy.

The book by the former Democrat member for Phitsanulok is a perfect reminder of what happened and what went wrong with the scheme. And it appears just as the country watches what will happen to Ms Yingluck, who chaired the National Rice Policy Committee, and those people involved in it.

The book pieces together key actors and motives behind the launch of the policy and explains alleged corruption at every step, from the very beginning of the process to the end — from the fake registration of farmers to the fake government-to-government rice deals.

The hardest part of Dr Warong's effort was to put the jigsaw together to establish the links among those involved in pocketing money from Pheu Thai's flagship policy. What was equally important was to write it for laymen who are confused by figures.

One good thing to arise from the book is the references to decent civil servants who cannot abide corrupt politicians at their ministries. They supplied information to Dr Warong while keeping themselves below the radar for the sake of their careers. His attempts to shed light on the scheme would have been incomplete, or even gone nowhere, without the help of those anonymous insiders.

Pheu Thai reacted angrily to the Democrat Party because the book revisits its mistakes and hidden motives behind the scheme, which it wants quickly forgotten. Dr Warong is right in thanking Pheu Thai for helping him to promote the book by attacking it.

Nipon Poapongsakorn of the Thailand Research Development Institute calls Dr Warong the "Sherlock Holmes of the rice-pledging scheme" for his investigation. Those who follow the trials of the fictional detective are familiar with the end of every story: Bad guys never walk free.

The book is out but the rice scheme folly is not over. It is writing its final chapters, and this time the plot is about justice. Nobody knows how this will end as anything can happen.

The only thing that won't change is karma.


Saritdet Marukatat is digital media news editor, Bangkok Post.

Saritdet Marukatat

Digital Media News Editor

He is Bangkok Post's Online Editor and is in charge of all online content.

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