The once loyal Malaysian Siamese community is now divided over its support for Barisan Nasional.
In the coming nail-biting 13th general election, every vote counts and the minority community’s 60,000-strong members, who are scattered around the five states bordering Thailand, may now be the opposition Pakatan Rakyat’s saving grace.
It is learnt that some sections of the community are beginning to support DAP and PAS despite a recent declaration by Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak that the community is officially accorded Bumiputera status.
The community’s problems began last year when the Prime Minister’s Department overlooked the nominees submitted by the Malaysia-Thai Association for a senatorship.
The association is the only bona fide organisation representing Malaysians of Siamese descent. Similar to the Orang Asli community, they are entitled to one senator seat as per the quota in the country’s diverse multi-ethnic set-up.
The present senator is Boon Som Inong, a Kuala Lumpur-based businessman, who originally hails from Kedah.
According to some quarters within the association, Boon Som was allegedly not recommended by them for the senatorship, but somehow, Najib preferred him, which is a break with tradition.
According to a source, Najib’s action has angered some quarters in the association, which has 10,000 members, most of whom are registered as voters in Perlis, Kedah, Penang, Perak and Kelantan.
Speaking to FMT, the association’s former president Siw Chun Eam conceded that the BN no longer had the community’s undivided support, and the senatorship was not a primary issue.
“We now hear in Perlis that an association member wants to form a DAP branch and some are attending Pakatan’s rallies. Previously, the community was 100 % behind BN.”
“What concerns the Malaysians of Siamese descent is that they share the same worries like others about the country’s direction.
“Right now, the main concerns of the electorate among the BN and Pakatan, are mostly only about issues about the Malays, Indians and Chinese, but not about the plight of the minorities,” she said.
She added that her community was also concerned about the country’s global competitiveness, corruption, healthcare, education and the basic notion of human rights, justice and equal stake in the economy as well as religious freedom.
“Just because we are quiet, does not mean we are not equally worried. Our members watch in horror to see the escalation in living costs,” she said.
Siw Chun said the community also has extended problems, such as issues of their citizenship documents since they are cross-border inhabitants, claims to land ownership and their socio-economic needs.
As the community is seen to be a rural one, its share of the economic pie is said to be among the lowest, Siw Chun said.
She hopes that both BN and Pakatan would be sincere in dealing with their problems, as having political clout does not mean anything if one community continues to generally suffer.
PAS to woo Malaysian-Siamese
Meanwhile, PAS vice-president Mahfuz Omar said his party cannot overlook Malaysians of Siamese descent, as they are active at border states including in his Pokok Sena parliamentary constituency in Kedah.
“I think BN has made a blunder in dealing with the minorities. In the next election, every voter counts. Pakatan needs everyone’s votes to wrest the country, while BN equally needs a similar number of support to defend its political position.”
Mahfuz said PAS is coming out with policies in Kedah and Kelantan where every community can benefit from, leaving none behind.
Social imbalances would continue to haunt any government’s administration if the latter ignores the plight of the rich, the poor and the disenfranchised groups, he stressed.
If BN falters on meeting the needs of the Malaysian of Siamese group, then Pakatan would naturally reap the benefits, Mahfuz said.
He added that the two-party system can champion everyone including the minorities as there would be an ample room for checks and balances.