Is there a different kind of populism inside the Shinawatra brand : Aisiasentinel oped piece seems to agree, arguing that the comparison between Thaksin and younger sister Yingluck achievements may be aimed at different groups of Thai people.
In Thailand, the term ‘populism’ does not yet have the negative connotations it has earned in Latin America and Europe, but the trend is in that direction. That was the message of a seminar entitled ‘Rethinking Populist Policy: From Thaksin to Yingluck’, held on 30 May at the Thailand Development Research Institute in Bangkok.
Under the Pheu Thai government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, in office since September 2011, the form of populism implemented is different from that of her older brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, who was elected premier in 2001 and who was deposed by a military coup in 2006. Thaksin’s policies, such as the 30 baht health card scheme and the One-Tambon-One-Product entrepreneurship program, distributed benefits relatively broadly to low income Thai people.
Yingluck’s government, on the other hand, has enacted new policies that redistribute wealth from taxpayers to narrow, special interest groups and not to the poor. Prime examples are the first-car buyers’ subsidy and an expanded rice pledging scheme. This change has occurred even though Thaksin still reportedly directs Pheu Thai policy remotely from his exile in Dubai.
The beneficiaries of the ‘first-car’ buyer subsidy are not the poor, who have no chance of purchasing a new car, but upper income groups. The scheme is widely abused, with wealthy new car buyers using proxy ‘first-car’ buyers to obtain the subsidy for themselves.