The Automotive Focus Group (AFG) is not one to ignore what is going on in Thailand, with political maneuverings front page and ‘democracy’ being one word being bandied about, and unfortunately not well understood.
Three years ago the AFG managed to get political commentator Voranai Vanijaka to address the group, and with Thai elections three months away it was time for a review.
Voranai began with a short biography appraising the members of his growing up in America for a decade before returning to his own country, Thailand. Similar to many Thais, Voranai showed himself to be in love with his country, explaining that ‘heart’ is what drives many Thais, rather than perhaps logic. He called this the emotional investment.
The 28 coups are, for Thai people, a “tradition”. He spoke on the ‘protest’ groups that have been seen in Bangkok and described mini ‘suburbs’ that were set up, complete with kitchens and restaurants. While covering the protests Voranai claimed he ate so well that he put on several kg of weight.
When it comes down to genuine political alignment, this is one area where the Thai political model differs from Western one. In Thailand, powerful groups form around political heavyweights and voting is then along personal lines, rather than party political ideology. (Editorial note: The very next day it was announced Sonthaya Kunplome as the new mayor of Pattaya, following on from his younger brother Itthiphol Kunplome, the sons of political heavyweight Kamnan Poh.)
Voranai spoke briefly on some of the opinion polls contrasting voter preferences for the top position. As these polls do not adjust for pressure groups and other non-democratic influences, these polls have a limited usefulness in the Thailand scene, which he described as a peasant society.
It was a very revealing evening, with a dinner in the Avani Resort and Spa following Voranai Vanijaka’s titillating address and if nothing else, the farangs in the AFG know what is happening in the Thai (peasant) society.