Elections this month, but will much really change?

Thai citizens will go to the polls on the penultimate Sunday of March, it has been announced. That’s good news – isn’t it?

Or is it?

Will much change as a result?

And will new initiatives necessarily be for the better?

If you are a foreigner living in your Pattaya house or condo, you could make out a “nothing to do with me” case. I would contend that this is the equivalent of burying your head in the sand, but the truth is that you have no say in the matter so maybe there isn’t much point getting interested?

I’m not about to try to make out the case that foreigners should have a say, by the way. We can happily screw up out own democracies – the UK’s Brexit from Europe seems an apt example. Americans voting for a bizarre President. We don’t need to go meddling elsewhere where our thoughts probably wouldn’t be appreciated.

But the Thai elections will affect you – of that you can be sure. In a good way? Possibly, let’s hope so. But I wouldn’t want to put money on it.

Talking about putting money on it, do you think the new body will address the thorny subject of legalising gambling? Let’s shelve that one for a while – maybe forever.

The military has been in power for close to five years now and, whisper it softly, the past half decade has been fairly stable, no major political ructions that I can recall. Stability is good, ask those involved in the money markets.

Perhaps I have a selective memory regarding the ructions – or lack thereof.

I was raised in a democracy and, as such, the idea of a country being run by its military has little appeal. But, consider if democracy is for everyone.

In recent history we have seen several hardline country leaders deposed – Saddam Hussein in Iraq and Muammar Gaddafi in Libya among others. Although it would not be popular to suggest they should have been left to get on with it, with hindsight I think it’s fair to say that the vacuums created by their overthrows have not been filled in the way many would have hoped.

But, let’s not carried away here. Thailand is no Iraq or Libya and, given the nature of its people, probably (make that also hopefully) never will be.

But back to my earlier thought … can a democracy work in Thailand?

History would suggest that, until now, it has not.

In less than a century, since 1932 when the absolute monarchy was abolished, Thailand has had 25 general elections and 19 coups d’état, 12 of them successful.

Using very rough math’s there has been one successful coup for every two general elections. This, to me, would suggest that democracy and Thailand are not the happiest of bedfellows.

But, at least, there seems to be a willingness to try to make democracy work even though that probably can best be described as a victory for hope over expectation.

Think positively, on the balance of probably, given the history, this election should be okay. After the next one may be the worry.

When I lived in Thailand it really used to tick me off that the bars were obliged to be shut the night before an election. That means a Saturday night, traditionally the best night of the week for income. I can’t say for certain this will happen this time, but I’ve heard nothing to the contrary.

In a tourist city like Pattaya I believe there should be a case for allowing the bars to stay open. I’m not so worried about the ex-pat population; they know the score and will make arrangements accordingly.

It’s the first-time tourists I’m thinking about. People forming their first view of the country.

Surely, it can’t be that difficult to achieve a compromise. If there really is a strong feeling that voters can’t be trusted to cast their votes properly after a few beers (what an insult, by the way) or that some civil disorder might break out, there must be a solution that doesn’t cause polling to be disrupted, while still allowing visitors to do tourist-type things.

Tourists get “special treatment” through higher pricing at certain attractions.

How about a bit of special treatment in their favour?

If push comes to shove would it be that difficult to enforce a one-night ban on alcohol sales to voters only?

Anyhow, those Thais determined to drink out will know the restaurants and bars who manage to serve very alcoholic drinks out of squeezy’ tomato ketchup bottles. Or order glasses of cola that look more than a tad watery.

I took part in such subterfuge once in Korat. As someone who is particular about the glass he drinks from – can’t stand anything with a handle – somehow beer from a ketchup bottle just didn’t work.

I sincerely hope that the Thai elections progress without incident and that stability and prosperity in the country follows for many years.

Indeed, I’ll drink to it!

By Dave Buckley