July 10, 2011

Wacky Upcountry Adventures in Thai Democracy

Last weekend was Thailand's historic election in which Yingluck Shinawatra became the first female Prime Minister. Some Thais were elated, some were upset, and some remain in a wait-and-see mode. Since I'm a foreigner, I'm not allowed to vote, but the misses asked me to accompany her upcountry so she could vote in her village in Nakhon Ratchasima Province. Asking why she didn't early register so she could vote in Bangkok drew a heap of scorn upon myself, so I decided to shut my yap and enjoy the ride.

My wife's cousin actually has a car in Bangkok, so she was kind enough to schlepp us upcountry Saturday morning (July 2). We took the skytrain to meet her, and my wife wanted everyone on the internet to know that she couldn't get a seat on the Skytrain despite being pregos. Apparently, manners have gone downhill in the city.
Striking a Pose on the BTS
After getting picked up, the traffic was absolutely horrendous heading to Isaan, and it took us 8 hours to travel what usually takes 3.
Welcome to Thaksin/Yingluck Country

Upon arrival in the village, I decided to snoop around and ask about the infamous vote buying that supposedly takes place in rural Thailand. As usual, no one wanted to tell the white guy anything about such dubious endeavors. Everyone was talking about the upcoming election and seemed generally interested in the democratic process. This puts a dent in the argument of certain Bangkok elite who think that uneducated people's vote should count for less. However, to say that everyone is motivated based on the campaign promises alone would be inaccurate. I'll just leave it at that to protect the guilty.

Getting away from the ugliness of politics, I decided to play some badminton with my boys and their cousins. The children in the rural villages seem to be a lot less fat and sedentary than the kids in Bangkok. This is probably because there is a lack of public space in the city to exercise. Letting your kids ride around on a bike in the streets of Bangkok probably qualifies as child abuse.
It's No Net, but a Log will Do in a Pinch
As night approached on Saturday, people were talking about the election, both the people that live in Bangkok and those that still live in the village. Indeed, this was an important one. It reminded me of the mood back when I was in the States in November 2008. To add some levity , my youngest son began rocking out to Luuk Thung tunes playing on a cell phone.
The Next Sek Loso?
The next day, the election took place at the temple, the central institution of the village. I tried to sneak inside, but the Tambon officials politely asked me to wait outside while my wife voted. While there may be some shady things going on in the villages, the polling station was 100% squared away. There was even a police officer there to prevent any shenanigans.

Each voter got two ballots (one to vote for the MP, and one to vote for a party), and two boxes were prominently displayed inside the temple. Even outside the polling station was real official, and they had copies of the registration papers for each candidate running for parliament in the district.
Official Registration Papers for Each MP
So we drove back on Sunday (which took forever), and got word late at night that Khun Yingluck and the Pheu Thai party were Thailand's big winners. My wife was happy about that, but not every woman in Thailand felt the same way. I guess we'll just have to wait and see.
Top Article on Drudge - July 3


1 comment:

Anonymous said...