The Nation reports on another dreary event where elite commentators lecture about the danger of populist policies. But amongst the familiar refrains there was a breath of fresh air:
Viroj na Ranong, a senior research specialist with the Thailand Development Research Institute Foundation (TDRI), said the media’s stereotyping of the poor as rural voters who were “addicted” to populist policies was disturbing because it revealed a deeprooted bias against the poor. Viroj reminded the panel that the rich got their own handouts from the Thaksin Shinawatra administration through assistance with nonperforming loans. “If you really count it, the cost of assistance given to the rich may be even higher than that given to the poor. I feel disturbed with the view that the poor are addicted [to populist policies] because it reflects a belief that the poor are lazy and do not know how to look after their interests.” If one is critical of populist policies offered by various parties, Viroj said, one should also be critical of what he called “royalist populism”, wherein people implement initiatives inspired by His Majesty the King such as the socalled “selfsufficiency” economy in a totally uncritical manner. “Royalist populism is also risky like those in Latin America,” Viroj explained.