The recent turmoil in Thailand generated headlines and numerous discussions. A ‘liberal’ commentator in the Stars paper wrote the following at the end of his article which I find to be specious:
King Bhumibol has dominated the last for better or worse. It’s very hard to predict where Thailand will be headed in the next couple of months. What’s clear is that we have not seen the last of the turmoil. Malaysians must learn from this. Power can never be totally concentrated in a single individual or group. Such an arrangement is simply unsustainable in the modern world. People need to be trusted to think and act for themselves. Authoritarianism, no matter how benevolent, can never be better than democracy, no matter how imperfect.
I am perplexed that he chose to blame Thai respect for their King as the problem for Thailand’s recent turmoil, and labeling it as authoritarianism. Obviously he can’t blame regular multi-party election and liberal media, given that Thailand have these. But isn’t having regular multi-party elections is what make a country ‘democratic’. Why is he twisting the fact as if Thailand is not democratic country? The elites and intellectuals have been sold on the idea that having democratic system means having sound political system and they would be on the way to peace and greater prosperity. Now, this guy is blaming Thailand for not being democratic enough! The writer most probably has the British parliamentary system and the British monarch in mind as being truly democratic. Democracy is this sacred cow, that seems more and more unattainable, despite the best intentions of putting it in practice in Asia. Perhaps, he should take a step backward, breathe, relax and read what Deng Xiao Ping prescribes on what is a sound political system.
HOW TO JUDGE THE SOUNDNESS OF A COUNTRY’S POLITICAL SYSTEM
March 27, 1987
There are three important criteria for judging the soundness of a country’s political system or structure and of its policies. First, whether the country is politically stable; second, whether the system and policies help to strengthen unity among the people and to raise their living standards; and third, whether the productive forces keep developing. In the last eight years we have scored some achievements in these three respects. Still, ours is a country with a huge population, a vast territory and a poor economic foundation to start with, so we have many difficulties to overcome. Nevertheless, I think our future is bright. (K Chew note: The above underlines or emphasis are by K Chew)
We should not shout empty slogans about socialism, for socialism cannot be built on the basis of poverty. Since conditions differ from one country to another, their policies should also differ. In our effort to build socialism we stress that it must have specifically Chinese characteristics. We have profound faith in Marxism, but we must integrate it with Chinese realities. Only Marxism that is integrated with Chinese realities is the genuine Marxism we need. It is on this understanding that we have been striving to attain our development goals.
Peasants constitute 80 per cent of our population. So without the initiative of the peasants, China cannot develop. Eight years ago we introduced the open policy in the countryside, and it has proved successful. The initiative of the peasants has been aroused. The output of farm products has substantially increased and a great amount of surplus labour in the countryside has moved to new, rising small and medium-sized enterprises or to new, rising cities and towns. This may be the only solution for the surplus labour in the countryside. In any event, peasants should not be confined to small plots of land forever. If they were, how could they prosper?
(K Chew note: This is a very important point made by Deng – that rural folks cannot prosper on small plots of land. Many rural folds will need to move to cities and towns to take other jobs. Currently it is still work in progress where rural population are about 55%)
(Excerpt from a talk with President Paul Biya of the Republic of Cameroon.)