Opinion: Thailand is neither capitalist nor communist but a bureaucratic elitist state

Free Youth’s decision to adopt the hammer and sickle symbol to represent their “Restart Thailand” movement on December 7 was a huge shock and was met with a very sizable pushback.

Many, myself included, considered it to be highly inappropriate and historically naive. After all, modern Thailand – with the support from the Americans – was built firmly on the foundation of a capitalist economy. 

Thailand’s economic success during the Cold War was a stark contrast to its neighboring countries that adopted communism. As Thailand’s standard of living was improving, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam were struggling with war and poverty.

Fast forward to 2021, there are arguably only two countries remaining in the world that could still be considered as communist: North Korea and Cuba – not exactly a beacon of prosperity or workers’ utopia.

Meanwhile, China and Vietnam are only communist in name as they incorporated capitalism and market economy into their national development strategy. Therefore, the fact that Free Youth’s embrace of communism was met with such strong opposition is not exactly a surprise.

However, Thailand’s current struggle is not about capitalism vs. communism or even socialism. This is not a classical struggle of the proletariat against the bourgeoisie. This is a straight fight between the bureaucrats and the people; the oppressors against the oppressed; the regime against its citizens.

We are a country suffering from bureaucratic collectivism.

According to Shachtman, “in the Stalinist State, production is carried on and extended for the satisfaction of the needs of the bureaucracy, for the increasing of its wealth, its privileges, its power.” In Thailand, society’s wealth, profit, and surplus is distributed among the bureaucratic class and extended network of government concessions and state enterprises. Just look at how we are dividing our vaccines.

As it stands, Thailand is neither a workers’ state nor a capitalist state.

The power of Thailand’s bureaucratic class has been channeled through NCPO under the leadership of Prayut Chan-ocha. The NCPO’s coup in 2014 was the defining moment of bureaucratic collectivism wrestlling power away from a capitalist and democratically elected government under the stewardship of Yingluck Shinawatra.

It has never been about “restoring democracy” or foolish claims of “reformation before election”. It was a plain and simple power grab, and they were successful.

The inclusion of 250 NCPO’s appointed senate in the upper house of the Thai parliament under the 2017 constitution is its most obvious evidence of bureaucratic collectivism’s protection against the popular will. They truly believe in their superiority and are deserving of the privilege to govern this country, even if it means running this country into the ground. 

There is also an additional issue of inferiority complexes, which worsen the current situation. Civil servants are generally perceived to earn less income than those in the private sector. Their competence is also often looked down upon since they usually lack the motivation needed to perform their tasks well given the nature of their job security. Meanwhile, lower-ranked civil servants will have to endure a life-long work environment where their competence and opinion do not matter as much as their ability to serve at their bosses’ pleasure. So when a lifelong civil servant makes his or her way to the top, the system has groomed them to be power-hungry, looking to make up for the lifelong experience of getting looked down upon.

After all, Prayut himself is a lifelong civil servant from the military faction.

And that is what we have today in Thailand. A gang of narcissistic, self congratulatory, power-hungry psychopaths that truly believe they deserve to be in the ruling class of this country, regardless of their competence.

Therefore, any possibility of Prayut and his cabinet resigning peacefully is as wishful thinking as it is naive. There are simply no possible scenarios where Prayut and gang will relinquish their powers peacefully.

We are witnessing an oppressive bureaucratic regime that is remarkably inefficient and has little to no regard for equality or human rights. 

Prayut Cabinet’s gross negligence and incompetence in dealing with Covid-19 pandemic is on full display for all to see. Their decision to prioritize the suppression of free speech over vaccine procurement should be the final and definitive proof that this regime and its supporting casts will do whatever it takes to maintain power, including sacrificing the lives of its citizens, which they view as dispensable anyway.


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