Opinion

Little hope for lasting change in Phuket

PHUKET: The word on the street is optimistic. The Army’s strong-armed, yet almost unanimously welcomed push to scrape the dirt from Thailand’s image is off to a resounding start. Their campaign to bring happiness back to the people has Thai people nodding in satisfaction and the no-nonsense effort to stamp out corruption has foreigners giving the thumbs-up.

For the time being, government funds are flowing and some laws are actually being enforced – just in time for Asean next year. It’s a good sign for Thailand. But Thais and foreigners who engage in a more analytical view of the situation have their doubts about the ability of any ruling power to hold back the tides of corruption and greed in the long-term.

This isn’t to say that the Army and future democratically elected government should give up the battle against malfeasance, but when the majority of the public isn’t actually against corruption per se, it’s going to be a hard one to win.

For instance, regarding the recent beach cleanup on Phuket, when I asked some beach vendors how they felt about being forced out of a job, they confidently responded that it was just a matter of waiting until there was an election and everything would go back to business as usual.

This sentiment just reinforces the results of a 2012 survey that showed more than 63 per cent of Thais who took part in the poll were willing to accept government corruption, as long as they benefited from it in some way (story here).

How can they say that? To a “fair and balanced” Western mind, the idea at first sounds preposterous and foolish. Just imagine, seeing your elected representatives act with their own or their corporate supporters’ best interest in mind before the public’s. Well, where I come from… oh, wait, that pretty much happens everywhere.

Government corruption runs rampant everywhere, that’s no secret. So maybe the least that people can hope for is to benefit from it personally, rather than imagine it could be stamped out entirely.

Even to the Thais who not only recognize the corruption but accept it, there is a balance. We all saw what happened as the balance tipped too far when former Prime Minister Yingluck tried to pass the Amnesty Bill. The public made it clear that they no longer felt like they were getting their share.

Let’s hope that Thailand stays on the current positive path and can maintain momentum to raise the quality of life for everyone and continue to polish their image. But, if the “if you can’t beat them, join them” attitude prevails, is there any hope the current changes will stick?

— Jeremie Schatz

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Legacy Phuket Gazette

Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

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