Pimps, Petai & Politicians

Thailand – an exotic land of extremes and paradoxes. It is also a land with some of the most colourful personalities in the world. Dull, sterile and strait-laced Singapore simply cannot compare with the boisterous and chaotic Land of Smiles. Or so it seems.

Many of the Red Shirt folks just discovered that former PM Yingluck Shinawatra is no martyr ala Aung San Suu Kyi. She has fled the country before the court could sentence her for negligence in a rice-purchasing scheme that had cost the country billions of dollars. Earlier on, she had promised her supporters that she would fight with them till the end. Some had pledged their lives, but then, just as she could break her promise, so can they. Some speculate that this spells the end of the Shinawatra era. That may be true, but I believe the Red Shirt movement may still go on as it has already taken on a life of its own.


Yingluck is said to have travelled across the border into Cambodia at Sa Kaeo. Now, Sa Kaeo is a prominent border town as well as an official immigration checkpoint in Thailand, why wasn’t she stopped. The same question must have crossed the minds of many people who suspect that the junta may have deliberately allowed Yingluck to leave the kingdom so that her supporters and their movement may lose steam. The military government has vehemently denied this. Again, remember that promises can be broken, acts can also be denied.

After Cambodia, she was reported to have flown to Singapore on her private jet and then then on to Dubai to meet up with her brother Thaksin Shinawatra. Some in Singapore asked if the generals were going to be mad with us. Well, the generals had not been nice to us since Thaksin came to power. I doubt allowing Yingluck to transit here can do further damage. Or if you like conspiracy theories, perhaps, all this was arranged with the military. Regardless of what went on behind the scenes, it seems that there is no more hope for Thaksin to return to power but people have been saying that since he was ousted in a coup in 2006.

Chuvit's not happy

Politicians come in many shapes and sizes in Thailand. Most are great entertainers. Here is a most unconventional election poster. Massage parlour mogul Chuvit Kamolvisit used to operate a chain of “luxurious” establishments employing some 600 women. He sold his business and ran unsuccessfully for Bangkok governor in 2004. His most famous statement:

“I would rather be labelled a pimp than a politician.”

He confessed that he had paid millions in protection money to the authorities and vowed to weed out corruption if elected. Somehow, I have more faith in this guy keeping his promise than all the well-dressed, soft-spoken folks claiming that they have the interests of the common people in mind.

Some folks inferred that the electorate must have preferred that Khun Chuvit returned to his old job of pimping. I prefer to think that they are afraid that he might fulfill his promise of weeding out corruption. If that were the case, it won’t be business as usual in Bangkok anymore.

Talking about business as usual, isn’t that what Singaporeans want as well? I’m not sure how many people would actually buy into the rationale of a reserved presidency or the reasons for raising the bar even higher for candidates to qualify, but to me, the purpose is quite clear. I’m not sure how many people agree that our first elected president is Wee Kim Wee, but to me, the purpose for counting President Wee as the first EP is also quite clear.

But think about it. How many American presidents would qualify under our standards? Could Obama have won if he didn’t have a reserved presidency? How many Chinese presidents would qualify? How’s that for thinking “big”?

How about a by-election for Marsiling-Yew Tee? Why is there no more minority representation there? What’s the purpose of having a GRC? Would future GRCs not need minority representation because “elected members are also expected to serve all residents, regardless of race, language and religion”? Why can’t the same logic apply to the presidency? Thailand is not the only place that is full of paradoxes and contradictions. Singapore too, albeit not as exotic and colourful.

I bet many who are keeping quiet feel the same way. However, they can and will tuck their conscience away because there is nothing more they want than business as usual. And in Singapore, business as usual means that the folks at the top continue to call the shots – all the shots until everyone of us becomes just a cog in the system.

Tan Cheng Bock at his rally, Aug 25

There is no doubt in my mind who will win this election if it had been an open one. There is no doubt in my mind who our first elected president really is and there shouldn’t be any doubt in anyone’s mind what all these changes are really for. It’s an awesome gesture for a group of Singaporeans to climb Ong Teng Cheong Peak 4743m in Kazakhstan at this time. I salute these folks for their conviction and the courage to insist on what is right.

1st Elected President - Ong Teng Cheong

Then on Facebook, a friend asked if anybody would nominate Fandi Ahmad. There is actually a Facebook page entitled Fandi Ahmand For President. I replied that we all love Fandi, but he won’t qualify. Strangely, my friend (a university professor) who always stays on tracks with the facts remarked that Fandi qualifies in the hearts of the people. Unfortunately, that is not good enough. The people don’t get to make the rules. In fact they may not even want to make the rules. They just want business as usual, good food on the table, protection from scams and lots of shopping. If the “wrong” person gets elected, will it be business as usual? Will the one who has the hearts of the people need to be on his toes and ward off every blow to remove him from office?

Finally, here is one of my favourite dishes and I wish to share it with everyone and I would especially like to dedicate to all Singaporeans. I suggest that we all make this dish on Nomination Day as a reminder to other fellow Singaporeans. Petai smells, but if that’s what you’ll have to eat, you will soon get used to the smell and may even grow to become dependent on it. You see, chicken has gotten too expensive for me, so I decided to cook some “fish”. The “fish” here costs me only $1.

© Chan Joon Yee

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