Monday, February 19, 2007

Isn't Thailand So Much More of a Democracy than Singapore?

Despite potentially undermining the reputation of his country's reputation as a safe opportunity for foreign investment, Gen. Sonthi not too long declared that he wanted to reverse the sale of Shin Corp from Thai hands into the portfolio of Temasek Holdings, an investment arm of the government of Singapore.

In spite of the military fashion in which he displaced Thaksin Shinawatra, the way Sonthi seems to be going about trying to get back the telecommunications assets seems to be very democratic. Just today, there is news that "Thailand to poll nation on reclaiming satellites from Singapore." It is not sure what sort of poll is going to be conducted, whether it is going to be a national referendum or whether it is just going to be a survey conducted by sampling a subsection of the population to determine the Thai people's sentiments.

Yet, even if the poll is not a full-scale national referendum, the process in which the decision is going to be made is surprisingly democratic, in many ways much more democratic than one might expect from Singapore.

Whatever the case, it appears Temasek's investment in Shin Corp has turned out to be a disaster. And the lessons Singapore can learn are not just to be careful with what may turn out to be politically explosive, it is also a lesson that Singapore's version of democracy is just one that is unlikely to work in various jurisdictions - Thaksin who declared he wanted to follow Singapore's model has been ousted, and Gen. Sonthi's process seems to be working much more effectively.

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