Thailand Election & Thailand Public Image

For the fourth time in a decade, Thailand has voted for a party associated with the exiled populist Thaksin Shinawatra. The situation in Thailand is really complicated. We and many other non-Thai, could not understand who is the bad guy in the Thai political scene ! (all sides seem like bad guys!) and what the majority and the intellects want! In fact, Thailand is the land of funny contradictions. Some Thais say: “Thaksin Shinawatra, a billionaire, is a wealthy former businessman who became Prime Minister in 2001 at the helm of the TRT, Thai Rak Thai, (Thais Love Thais) party. Thaksin, who ruled until his 2006 ouster, became one of the longest ruling Thai civilian politicians in recent history. At the root of his success is a vastly successful populist platform and economic policy, which included offering the first universal health care scheme to poor Thais. His party became vastly popular with poor Thais in northeastern Thailand, but his opponents accused him of authoritarianism, human rights violation, corruption and tax evasion . His rather rebellious attitude towards Thailands monarchy also won him the hatred of hardcore monarchists. Protests by the Peoples Alliance for Democracy (PAD), the yellow-shirts, a group of conservative ultra-nationalist monarchists with fascist inklings, led to Thaksins ouster by a military coup in September 2006 . The heavily politicized military, which sees itself as the guardian of the monarchy, was the other heavyweight
non-parliamentary opponent of Thaksins regime. The military banned the TRT, wrote a new constitution and finally called elections for December 2007. … Now the military have accepted Yingluck as the Thai Prime Minister, but warned that the Pheu Thai party and the military will drift apart-and that the Pheu Thai Party, particularly Taksin, must not transgress on the Thai monarchy !!”

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Thailand, 65 million, and its protests are known enough. The Red Shirts began their protests in April 2010. Iranian protesters (Greens) remember Thailand protests (Reds) very well. Now, after one year, the Thai protesters are winning the election again. The landslide win Sunday by the opposition Pheu Thai party makes Thaksins sister, Yingluck Shinawatra, the countrys first female prime-minister-elect . It also represents a sharp rejection of the 2006 military coup that overthrew Thaksin. Fourteen months after the army crushed protests in Bangkok by red-shirted supporters of Thaksin. Thailand is the land of coup !, and has seen 18 successful and attempted military coups since it transitioned from an absolute monarchy in 1932 . Pheu Thai is the successor party of TRT, the party founded by Thaksin Shinawatra and which brought him to power in 2001. He was deposed by a military coup in September 2006 and has been in self-imposed exile since. However, he still controls Pheu Thai and has installed his sister Yingluck Shinawatra. But some Thais hate both Red and Yellow groups. A Thai says : “the New Politics Party has put up posters urging voters to vote No. Thai ballot papers provide a No option after listing all the parties/candidates, allowing voters to make a legitimate abstention. … what they are trying to say is that all politicians are monkeys and hungry beasts. The message in their poster is that even if you manage to escape from a tiger, youll only run into a crocodile. So throw the whole lot out”

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Thailand was an absolute monarchy from 1782 until 1932, when rebels seized power in a coup and established a constitutional monarchy. The country was known as Siam until 1939 (when it was renamed Thailand), and again for a few years in the late 1940s. In 1949 the name Thailand was adopted a second time. The politics of Thailand are currently conducted within the framework of a constitutional monarchy, whereby the Prime Minister is the head of government and a hereditary monarch is head of state. The 1997 Constitution was the first constitution to be drafted by popularly elected Constitutional Drafting Assembly, and was called the “People’s Constitution”. The 1997 Constitution created a bicameral legislature consisting of a 500-seat House of Representatives and a 200-seat Senate. The January 2001 general election, the first election under the 1997 Constitution, was called the most open, corruption-free election in Thai history. But in 2006, without meeting much resistance, a military junta overthrew the government. The junta abrogated the constitution, dissolved Parliament and the Constitutional Court, detained and later removed several members of the government, declared martial law, and appointed one of the king’s Privy Counselors, General Surayud Chulanont, as the Prime Minister . The junta also appointed a 250-member legislature, called by some critics a “chamber of generals”.

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The Thai use the phrase “land of the free” to express pride in the fact that Thailand is the only country in Southeast Asia never colonized by a European power. But the phrase “land of the free” should be used for their weird traditions and the public image of Thailand. As you know, Tourism is a major economic factor in Thailand. The annual number of tourists is more than 15 million. The world knows Thailand as the heaven of “S-e-x Tourism”. Estimates of the number of prostitutes vary widely and are subject to controversy. A 1974 study put the number of prostitutes at 500,000 to 700,000. A 2004 estimate by Chulalongkorn University gives a total of 2.8 million s-e-x workers, including 2 million women, 20,000 adult males and 800,000 minors under the age of 18 . One estimate published in 2003 placed the trade at US$ 4.3 billion per year or about three percent of the Thai economy. Centers such as Bangkok (Patpong, Nana Plaza, and Soi Cowboy), Pattaya, and Phuket (Patong) are often identified as primary tourist “prostitution” areas, with Hat Yai and other Malaysian border cities catering to Malaysians, prostitution takes place in nearly every major city and province in the country. More than 500,00 Thais were living with HIV/AIDS. Thailand is also known for a traditional style of body massage, and also for a erotic message. .

It’s very interesting that prostitution had been illegal in Thailand, since 1960, when a law was passed under pressure from the UN. In fact, Thailand is the land of contradictions. Some tourists say: “Thai society has its own unique set of often contradictory sexual mores. Visiting a prostitute or a paid mistress is not an uncommon, though not necessarily acceptable behavior, for men . Many Thai women, for example, believe the existence of prostitution actively reduces the incidence of rape. Among many Thai people, there is a general attitude that prostitution has always been, and will always be, a part of the social fabric of Thailand … S-e-x-u-al relationships for single women also meets disapproval by a majority of the Thai population, premarital s-e-x, casual s-e-x and extramarital s-e-x with prostitutes is accepted, expected and sometimes even encouraged for Thai men , the latter being perceived as less threatening to a marriage over lasting relationships with a so-called “minor wife”…But many people said that people in Thailand generally disapprove of prostitution !” In 2005, the owner of several massage parlors in Bangkok and considered by many “a godfather of prostitution”, was elected for a four-year term to the Thai House of Representatives ! , but in 2006 the Constitutional Court removed him from office.

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Thailand is the land of contradiction. There’s nothing unusual about finding a shrine in Bangkok, Tuptim Shrine in the Nai Lert Park. Instead of the usual Buddhist gods and spirits the Tuptim Shrine revolves around something that some might consider quite unholy, the P-e-n-is. All around the things that look like little sticks of wood and statues are all the same -loads and loads of penises; all shapes and sizes. Some tourists say: “It’s one the funny contradictions of Thailand. Bangkok has a reputation for its s-e-x-u-a-l exploits but this is a peaceful antidote to some of the more in-your-face spectacles on offer in the city”. Chao Mae Tuptim is a Chinese deity. She protects fishermen and sailors. There is more than one Chao Mae Tuptim shrine in Thailand. Some Iranians, that in the recent years has become one of the major groups of the tourists in Thailand and often are fooled by the Lady boys!, say: “It can be acceptable and harmless, that you think that one of the gods should be a p-e-n-i-s, or in the shape of a p-e-n-i-s. It’s exactly your creator ! In this way, Iranians can change their common slang from “to my balls” to “to my god” ” Although fairly unusual there are other p-e-n-i-s shrines throughout Asia, most notably Kanamara Matsuri in Japan where there is an annual p-e-n-i-s festival. Bangkok, 6 million, is the capital and the only city of Thailand that have more than 1 million population. The official language of Thailand is Thai. According to the census (2000) 94.6% of the total population are Buddhists of the Theravada tradition. Muslims are the second largest religious group in Thailand at 4.6%. Thai Buddhism has evolved over time to include many regional beliefs originating from Hinduism, animism as well as ancestor worship. The official calendar in Thailand is based on the Eastern version of the Buddhist Era, which is 543 years ahead of the Gregorian calendar (2011 is 2554 BE in Thailand). The literacy rate in Thailand is high, near 90%.The annual rate of population growth of 0.7 percent. The average number of children per woman is near 1.5. Thailand is the largest newspaper market in Southeast Asia with an estimated circulation of at least 13 million copies daily in 2003. But it’s not the whole story of Thailand, the land of funny contradictions.

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Some tourists say: “In the type of Buddhism practiced in Thailand, women are viewed as naturally inferior to men. They think that women are impure, carnal, and corrupting. This is also evidenced by the belief that women cannot attain enlightenment, although this view is disputed by other Buddhist scriptures … S-e-x with prostitutes is viewed by wives as empty s-e-x, and thus women may allow their husbands to have meaningless s-e-x with prostitutes rather than to find a new spouse !!” According to the US-based research institute Protection Project, the number of children involved in prostitution living in Thailand ranges from 12,000 to the hundreds of thousands. Thailands Health System Research Institute estimates that children in prostitution make up 40% of prostitutes in Thailand. Some Western tourists say: “In Bangkok, everything are almost free for us. The local s-e-x workers are readily available for a rate of $30 per night, the whole night. However, there are places that have been reported to offer such services for $20. This is typically the Thai price, the local price, but the price for the tourists is at least $60”. And some tourist add: “ In poor, uneducated, rural families , the s-e-x trades has become an income-earning occupation for daughters who have few other job alternatives. Its true that most of the urban s-e-x workers earn more income than their families back home, sending savings home each month to support younger siblings and older parents. While girls sent to the big cities as CSWs (commercial s-e-x worker) can sometimes quietly retire and return to their villages, for every happy ending, there are many more sad tales of drug use and physical abuse. We should not forget that many children bought and sold after being kidnapped and enslaved .” Thailand faces a number of social problems. Corruption affects government, business, and even the Buddhist monkhood (sangha), and the press frequently reports scandals. Drugs and drug trafficking are ongoing concerns. Wide social gaps -between rich and poor, city and countryside- compound these problems. Many believed that the main root of s-e-x tourism in Thailand is poverty, and it’s really tragic.

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