Arroyo and Thaksin

Gloria Arroyo and Thaksin Shinawatra | Photo from OPS, hosted by Photobucket

Now that Thailand Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has been ousted by a military coup, Philippine President Gloria Arroyo’s critics must be wondering if the same will happen to her. Arroyo has been very vocal about his admiration for Thaksin’s style of leadership, and the latter has also been generous with praises for the de facto Philippine President. But aside from their friendship, the two leaders have more in common.

Thepchai Yong, group editor of Bangkok-based independent Newspaper The Nation, enumerated them in an opinion piece entitled

Here are excerpts from the piece where the editor discusses the similarities between Arroyo and Thaksin:

1) “Thick-faced”, “Thief”, “Devil”, “Dictator”. The two leaders share these common labels.

2) Both may be rejected by the urban middle-class but remain popular with their rural electorates who benefit from their populist policies. Surprisingly, the ratings of both leaders have not suffered as much as one would expect. The Arroyo camp would argue that there was never a mass uprising against the president. The anti-Arroyo movement is more the work of the “oligarchs” and interest groups. Thakin’s explanation? It’s those who stand to lose from his pro-poor policies who have been working against him.

3) Both reportedly have no love lost for independent mechanisms that would ensure checks-and-balances. Thaksin stacked most of the independent bodies, such as the Election Commission, Constitution Court and the National Counter Corruption Commission, with his loyalists. Because of the “Garci tape” incident, Arroyo is accused of compromising the independence of the Election Commission. She described it as a “lapse of judgement” but her critics see it as nothing less than outright cheating. The ombudsman who was supposed to hold politicians accountable for their misdeeds has been rendered ineffective by what Philippine journalists believe to be political intervention.

4) Thaksin’s family members have been at the centre of charges of conflicts of interest, having allegedly exploited his political power to pursue business interests. Arroyo’s relatives are no different. Her husband is accused of receiving money from an illegal gambling racket while her son and her husband’s brother also are alleged to have received payoffs.

5) Both face rumblings within the armed forces, the rank-and-file level of which became restless because of their disenchantment with their political leaders. Thaksin and Arroyo know that support of the military is crucial to their survival and have not hesitated to do anything to buy their loyalty.

6) Both believe everyone has a price. Their critics claim they use both political power and wealth to buy allies at all levels of the armed forces and bureaucracy. Arroyo is even accused of trying to bribe church leaders who wield tremendous moral authority over Catholic Filipinos. And there is a long list of people who are reported targets of Thaksin’s buyoffs.

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