The so-called pro-democracy movement’s concerns about Thaksin’s trips to the Northeast and the North are bizarre. Of course in a parliamentary democracy there is always the danger of blurring the line between government business and party political business (in Australia we are very familiar with that!). But surely a serving Prime Minister has every right to travel within the country presenting the government’s policies to the electorate. If the policies are “populist” then so be it. And if the policies involve distribution of land certificates, livestock or bicycles then why shouldn’t the PM do some symbolic distribution himself? This surely is a transparent expression of the government’s position. If the electorate thinks the largesse is inappropriate or excessively populist it can express its views in the upcoming ballot. Governments are often punished for excessive “pork-barrelling” and Thailand should be no exception.
Perhaps what really alarms the pro-democracy advocates of democracy-lite are the images of Thaksin’s popularity that emanate from the provinces. Those silly provincial folk just can’t get it into their heads that they should leave political judgements to the middle classes and the intellectuals in the city. And that’s where a PM should stay – corralled in Bangkok where true government belongs. Not mixing with the hoi polloi who are likely to be seduced by the prospect of a cow and a bike! Chairing a cabinet meeting from Mae Rim! God forbid!