There is a bit of a debate brewing about Thaksin supporters being paid to attend rallies or if there has been a political awakening. There is food for a fueled and heated debate from both positions, and it is time to sit down and have a look to see what the truth is.
You could easily sit down and pick any moment in Thai History to start, but in this case we have decided that the turn of the Millennium is as good a places as any to start. After all any year that has a lot of zeros is a good starting place. So with that starting point we must first set the stage, and what is seen is a neglected part of Thailand with low educated Thais who are mostly farmers. For the most part the status quo was the rich and Elite Thais tending to their own while forgetting about the poor. The only person who took care of the Thais in this part of Thailand was The King as well depicted in footage that is frequently aired on TV.
Thaksin Shinawatra saw this potential and harnessed their voting power by tending to them with a few crumbs. As it was, a few crumbs was enough to buy their votes and get elected as Prime Minister. Once Thaksin was in power he continued to feed them crumbs and put the rest in his own pocket. But unfortunately for the poor lesser educated Thais they could not see what was going on. All they saw was present tense and to them future tense was a day or 2 away.
Because of that very limited foresight, they tended to be just vote cattle for Thaksin with little other political value. Because of that Thaksin was able to do what he wanted because it was over their heads. Like cattle at a slaughter house, they would have no clue to what is going on until the fatal blow was administered.
Fast forward to late 2007 and the pending December elections that would seat the pro Thaksin People Power Party (PPP). There was clear evidence of pro Thaksin propaganda in the northeast. Ultimately this propaganda would turn to become an educational tool as to the power of their votes. Although they were poor and uneducated, they had significant numbers to steer the political direction of Thailand.
To many people’s horror they saw the equal of a 5 year old driving a bus and catastrophic consequences of the country being steered by people with 4 to 6 years of schooling. That prompted a new political party called the New Politics Party (NPP) that looked to limit children playing with matches so to speak.
Fast forward again to 2010 and we now see and hear about a huge rally with grossly exaggerated numbers and billions of Baht being fed into Thailand from a location where Thaksin is known to be hiding. Doing a little math and comparison to history, this is most likely rally funding money otherwise known as pay to come to Bangkok and overthrow the government money.
With that said, the question about a political awakening or not is a double answer. When asking the question if the uneducated Thais know they have political muscle the answer can only be yes.
When asking the question do they know how to achieve their goals without external guidance from an educated leader, the answer is generally no. the reason the answer is general is because many of the younger Thais have a higher level of education, but collectively not in significant numbers as yet to set their own path.
When asking the question if this group can be ignored in the future, the answer is no. Very simply their needs need to be addressed. As the older less educated Thais die of old age and other natural causes, they next generation will be calling the shots. With that comes a higher level of political awareness and a greater interest as to what is happening down in the Big village known as Bangkok.
This will however be a gradual change like a growing tree. One day that tree will provide shade to any who wish to sit in it’s shadow. Because of that any political party that wants to stay in power must court this group. They may not be able to walk on their own yet, but most certainly their eyes are now forever open.