Thailand: Doughnuts for National Reconciliation

Supporters of Thailand’s ex-Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra celebrated his 64th birthday by distributing 64,000 doughnuts to underprivileged children. The gift giving will last until August 3. Thaksin was ousted in a coup in 2006 and has remained in exile to avoid detention after being convicted of corruption charges. Thaksin has claimed that he couldn’t get a fair trial in Thailand.

Many of Thaksin’s supporters became members and leaders of the Red Shirts movement which aggressively opposed the administration of Abhisit Vejjajiva. The Red Shirts launched provocative street protests in 2010 which led to violent clashes with the police. Abihisit’s party lost in last year’s election. The incumbent prime minister is Yingluck Shinawatra, the younger sister of Thaksin.

The box of the free doughnuts contain a ‘unity’ message from Thaksin. Photo from Teakdoor

To promote unity after years of deep political conflicts, several ‘reconciliation bills’have been proposed in the parliament. However, some critics have described the ‘reconciliation bills’ as ‘amnesty bills’ which would exonerate public officials who committed crimes in the past.

The ‘free doughnuts’ campaign was initiated by Red Shirt leaders who also described it as a ‘gesture of national reconciliation’ and unity. The free doughnut boxes contained a message from Thaksin:

On the occasion of my birthday, may love, sweetness and harmony be upon you. With love and bonding, Pol Lt Col Thaksin Shinawatra, July 26, 2012.

The Lost Boy thinks the campaign is irresponsible:

The thing that struck me about this is that it makes no sense to give “underprivileged children and adults” boxes of doughnuts — especially children! Doughnuts are generally sweet. Dental healthcare among the underprivileged is generally poor. Sure, people will probably enjoy receiving these sugary gifts, but ultimately, encouraging poor people to scoff down boxfuls of doughnuts is irresponsible and just plain silly.

If you want to really help underprivileged communities, give them something useful, like toothpaste or rice.

From twitter, below are some reactions:

@fratticcioli #Thailand Gift Culture RT @tulsathit: #Thaksin has sent 64,000 birthday doughnuts to Thais nationwide including Govt House reporters

@tulsathit Thaksin's doughnuts come in Valentines Day-style boxes with his face on them and a message “Let me give you love, sweetness and unity:.

‏@LukeInTH Let them eat cake! or donuts. #cantmakethisshitup #TIT

@JamieMonk I want a Thaksin doughnut.

From online forums, below are some comments. Khonrai wrote in The Paknam Web Forum about the irony of distributing doughnuts in a country where diabetes in a big problem:

In a country where diabeties is rampant and a major health problem. they give away donuts

In the Orient Expat forum, skydiver777 suggested an alternative text to the doughnut boxes:

The doughnuts will be in pink [not red?] boxes, upon which will be printed;
Unity doughnuts from the heart.
Please consume immediately.

Perhaps underneath should also be printed;
Do not throw away this box.
That's my picture on it.

In the Pattaya-Live forum, Bruce Mangosteen explains how the doughnuts will ‘help’ the poor:

Well, surely the doughnuts will be a big help. Assuming they have 1000 baht notes baked inside. :)

Below are some comments of netizens about the campaign:

jacksprat: Bill Gates and Warren Buffet have each given away billions of US$ to charities. Thaksin gives away donuts.

bluebkk: If you steal billions from the country a few boxes of ridiculous donuts is just a trick to appease the red villages and anybody else of that level of intellect!

waters: I'm not going to let my kids eat those donuts! I have this unsubstantiated fear that after eating one of those donuts they'll have goofy facial expressions, start wearing red clothing, and will be demanding amnesty for a corrupt fugitive. I'll let them eat something healthy instead.

nosurprise: 64,000 doughnuts estimated cost of 2 million baht. Just think what good that amount of money could do for the underprivillaged if used wisely instead of this immature populist gimmick.

dao: Thaksin going to court would promote unity more than doughnuts .Oh my god .


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