- Posted January 26, 2014 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Red Taxi Driver Confession
I have recently come across 3 taxi drivers in Bangkok. All of them are red shirt supporters but, surprisingly, all of them, though sometimes angry, are open to ideas and information. I started uniformly by talking about traffic then I identify the problem resulting from corruption. Then we started talking politics and the Bangkok Shutdown in no time. I always identify myself as neutral and tried to understand their points of view. Before I told you what each driver told me, all three of them went quiet when I told them how Thaksin and his regime cheated. Whether it is the rice pledging, illegal share transfer, airport scanning machine scandal, and the way he changed the law to his advantage. This information was not available to them before and, from what I observed from the red shirt media, none of the red shirt leaders defends Thaksin’s corruption charges but focuses on hatred attacks on Democrats, Suthep, and the palace.
The first driver was from Mahasarakarm in the northeast. He said the drought is bad every year and he came in to drive in Bangkok to support his rice farming income. He said he usually follows whatever his village leader vote. Vote buying is real and it does not exclude Democrat or Phieu Thai parties. He admires Thaksin for getting rid of drugs. He listened very closely to my case against Thaksin and thanked me for explaining to him in simple terms. I told him our views are the same on getting rid of corruption. The benefit Thaksin gave to his village is short-term and his kids will suffer.
The second driver came from Ubol, also in the northeast. He seems to be quite an angry young man and vent out frustration about the patronage system and equality in Thailand. He said everyone including the King should have the same rights. Police will tend to stop him rather than the brand new Mercedes as a policeman does not want to get into trouble. He takes red shirt side but it does not mean he does not listen. He listens to both Blue Sky TV and NBT and he does not always agree with the government. I think he agreed with me that Thaksin is part of the problem, not a solution. True, the government prior to Thaksin may have abandoned the northeast. But that does not make my statements on Thaksin’s corruption any less correct. I do have hope in this guy as he is hungry for information.
The third driver came from the northeast but has worked in Bangkok for a long time. He was laid off from an office work after 1997 Baht crisis with a monthly salary about THB 40,000 (That is a lot back in 1997!). He has not been able to find good jobs since and has resorted to driving taxi to support his family. He thought of suicide before but now he feels strong and has an optimistic view of life. He picks up passengers from the mob area every night and said most of the protestors came directly from the mob area to the well-to-do areas of Bangkok. He does not think the protest leaders can cheat the protestors. He believes Suthep is corrupt as well but there is no upside for Suthep standing up to fight. Thaksin, on the other hand, incites hatred for his own benefit. The disastrous rice pledging program is so corrupt and he hates the government for that. This is from a red shirt supporter and I am quite surprised to hear that.
End of the day, I am quite hopeful that we can bridge our differences and, perhaps, we will have more common grounds rather than differences. We need to keep sharing information and focusing on issues, not persons. Democracy is also about the courage to speak up and share information. Those who understand will tell those yet to understand. Those who know more debates those who know less or misunderstand.
The key is to tell the folks how much Thaksin has taken away from them and their children and how we can work together. I told all of them we need people like them to get together, disown Thaksin, and find a way forward. Not democrat. Not Thaksin’s regime (for sure). We need moderate voters in the middle to rise up and this may be the only chance in our lifetime…