Rosana Tositrakul: ‘Thai energy is the biggest swindle of all time’

By Monruedee Jansuttipan, Pichanan Toonkamthornchai | Sep 01, 2014

While the junta vows to restructure energy prices, last week 10 activists were arrested for staging a rally urging energy reform. BK chats with consumer activist and former senator Rosana Tositrakul, 60, one of the leaders of Thai Energy Reform Watch, about her inspiration for becoming an activist, her long-fought battle against corruption, and why nationalization of the energy sector makes sense.

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Gandhi inspired me a lot. His saying that only two things really matter in life­—to purify our mind from greed and anger, and to live righteously—is very similar to what’s espoused in Buddhism. It transformed me from wanting to be a businesswoman to wanting to be an activist.

Self-reliance is crucial for our society. We must be able to stand on our own feet. I encourage people to use Thai herbs as medicine, rather than waste money on expensive drugs. I empower people to use what’s at their doorsteps.

I exposed pharmaceutical corruption in the Ministry of Public Health. It took six years, but the result was satisfying as the minister, Rakiat Sukthana, went to jail and his assets were seized.

Filing a lawsuit against the privatization of the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand was my first step into consumer rights. The day the court announced the verdict on privatization, I received an anonymous phone call from someone telling me that, for the first time in a long time, he felt our nation was a better place. It was like all along people felt they didn’t have power. They had to do what the government said.

Thai energy is the biggest swindle of all time. Energy is 20 percent of our GDP, enormous money, but concessions to privatized energy companies like PTT mean the government only gets 2.5 percent of revenue from natural resources. the PTT’s monopoly causes gas price hikes because their goal is making a profit, not making people happy.

The most ridiculous thing is that our high-ranking public servants, who should protect people’s rights, are paid to sit as board members at PTT to agree on every energy policy that drives up prices.

Dealing with corruption is like catching flies. If you try to kill them one by one, more flies will just turn up. You have to look for the stinking well of corruption that is their breeding ground and eradicate it.

Too much power in the council leads to dictatorship. Dictatorship without oversight leads to corruption. For people who stand against corruption, it’s clear that power minus oversight equals corruption.

If Thailand was a company, it would have gone bankrupt a long time ago. Before a company invests in a project, it must evaluate its feasibility, but we never evaluate our national property in the right way. Our Budget Bureau never keeps any stats on how much we have lost due to concessions, like how much the government has to spend to compensate for misjudged projects.

The profit of the state is the happiness of its people. Every investment is for citizens’ equal well-being, but it’s never been evaluated that way in this country.

At the heart of reformation is society, not politics. Reformation must return the ownership of essential resources to the people, not create more wealth for a few people.

Activism is for the long-haul. Things don’t happen right away. It might take a whole lifetime or more to succeed, just like planting a seed which takes time to grow after much care and watering.

Focus on taking the right train. When I went on a natural farming study trip to Japan, a man there told me, “After setting your goal, don’t worry about when you will reach it because once you are on the right train, it will take you all the way.” That’s become my activist motto, too.

The only dream I have right now is for Thai people to stop thinking only about hemselves and to start thinking of others. There is no need for one person to have billions while there are still so many people without a home or food.

Politics needs to have a mothering touch and femininity. A mother usually takes better care of a crippled child precisely because that child needs more attention. All we think of now, though, is figurative freedom and equality, but we never really look at how people are doing.

Equality doesn’t mean we have to cut all our fingers to the same length to receive the same amount of everything. It means that people who have less should get more.

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Interview by Pichanan Toonkamthornchai and Monruedee Jansuttipan – See more at: http://bk.asia-city.com/city-living/news/bangkok-rosana-tositrakul-nationalization-energy#sthash.DdP9HXRi.dpuf

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