It is often hard for urban Thai perceptions of the rural to strike an appropriate middle ground. On the one hand there is the romantic imagery of honest and hard working agriculturalists living simple and sufficient lives, in harmony with the environment and each other. On the other hand there are images of a money hungry rabble casting aside cultural traditions in pursuit of easy cash and exotic coyote dancers. Both images are politically disempowering. The former suggests that rural folk have little interest in modern politics except in the form of “resistance” when traditional ways are threatened. The later suggests that their interest in politics is exhausted once sufficient money has been paid for their votes.
It is the disempowerment of the rural that is at the heart of Sondhi Limthongkul’s current political campaign. Sondhi’s elitist vision has been the subject of considerable New Mandala discussion (here, here and here for example). Today, there is another interesting addition to the emerging field of Sondhi-suksa from The Nation’s Chang Noi:
Sondhi is appealing to a deep vein of middle-class fear. Bangkokians no longer have to worry about rural revolution, and have even been spared the sight of rural protesters cluttering up the Bangkok pavements (an unappreciated benefit of the Thaksin era). But they understand that, deep down, electoral politics is a battle over the command of resources, and that Thaksin’s populism showed the rural mass was starting to gain a larger share.