As regular contributor – Patiwat – warns, Surayud’s policy manifesto should not be taken too seriously. But, to my reading, there are a number of issues worth further discussion.
First, the overall social vision. To me, this is a vision of a virtuous and loyal populace united under benign royalist leadership. Harmony is code for limited public involvement in political affairs. This is a vision that even the elitist so-called pro-democracy advocates (Sondhi et al) may find somewhat disconcerting.
Second, there are the now familiar references to “sufficiency economy”. It is interesting that this is taking such a central place in the regime’s policy, when it is a concept that still has to be clarified. (“The government is expected to clarify the sufficiency economy philosophy…”). I see little in this policy statement to make me change my mind that sufficiency economy is primarily a regulatory concept aimed at managing the aspirations of rural people (in particular) who see an economic and political future for themselves rather different to the harmonious and virtuous future envisaged for them by the benevolent rulers in Bangkok.
Surayud and his advisors seem concerned that foreign investors may interpret “sufficiency economy” as an inward looking economic approach. How could investors get such a silly idea? Just look at this positively cosmopolitan vision from a key book about the “new (?) theory” on sufficiency economy:
As I posted a few months ago, perhaps there are more realistic, investor-friendly and people-friendly economic visions. I came across this one while undertaking ethnographic research in a popular northern Thai eating establishment:
Third, what the hell does “virtue before education” mean? Let’s hope too many resources aren’t wasted on teaching Thailand’s youngsters about “sufficiency economy, harmony, peaceful action and democracy”. Surely the best lesson for democracy would have been allowing political differences to be resolved through electoral means.
And, fourth, using the “military’s potential to support the country’s developments in all aspects” (under the sufficiency economy principle of course) sounds like a leap back to the 1980s and earlier.
This is just a very preliminary start to discussion on the new regime’s policy directions. Further contributions very welcome!