There is little doubt the rice pledging scheme hatch by Thaksin is now starting to become a nightmare for him. No matter how you cook this rice, for Thaksin it has become a catch 22.
The thought of buying voter loyalty is not a new concept to Thailand. The fact that votes can be bought or sold tends to taint the concept of democracy. But to buy votes with tax payers money tends to cross the line. With the amount of money being lost with the Thaksin sponsored rice pledging scheme being big enough to get the attention of the World Bank, the question is how long will it be before it is simply too much of a money loser for the Thai people to revolt as they did in early 2006 when Thaksin’s ‘Shin’ deal came to light.
So here we are, the rice pledging scheme buys rice from poor Thai farmers that are the core members of his voter base. If Thaksin was to suddenly end the rice scheme, the short memories and live for the moment attitude would quickly erode his voter base. So it all comes down to face another revolt, or lose the voter base being the only options.
However there is another factor to be considered as well and that is Thai pride. Thailand has so few things it can be proud of. With an extremely substandard education system, the chances of producing Shining Star Thai’s that can compete on a global stage is greatly diminished. Only inborn talent from outside of education seems to be all that is left to be proud of. Singing, the arts, sports, and creative handicrafts are about the limit of human born pride. It is the natural beauty of Thailand and its people that are allowing them to prosper. So when Thailand fell off the top as being the number 1 rice producer in the world and looks to fall more, Thaksin has a load of lost face to deal with.
But this is more or less par for the course. Thaksin has no friends, but he does have money. His arrogance would quickly chase away anyone who did not get some financial gain from him. If he were a nice guy, ending the rice scheme would not be such a huge train wreck for him. People would generally be understanding.
However the people who have allowed themselves to become financially dependent on Thaksin’s handouts are truly in significant problems. So more or less it becomes an addiction. ‘Keep Thaksin in power and I will survive’ is the simple short logic of the undereducated Thais. So in a way those poor Thais have sold their soul to the devil. How many Thais are in this situation is hard to say, but rest assured it is more than a few.
So to watch this unfold knowing what is going on it Thaksin’s mind is interesting to watch. End the rice scheme and the chance of getting enough votes to change the Constitution becomes doubtful. So no matter how you look at it, it is a bit of a precarious situation Thaksin has placed himself in. How he gets out will likely be another Thaksin classic signature, and that is to make threats and inflict violence on the people who oppose him. Those attacks would most likely come on people who were in the public’s eye such as spokesman or others in the media regularly. But with the World Bank against him, it becomes difficult to deal with things that are much more powerful than him and are not in any way under his influence.