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ASEAN ANALYSIS  13 September 2010

Good news, bad news from Thailand

By David Swartzentruber
AseanAffairs   13 September 2010

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There are 10 countries in the Asean community: Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore Thailand and Vietnam. At Asean Affairs we attempt to give equal play to all the countries but, in fact, Thailand seems to be getting a lot of attention and many readers indicate they’d like more news on the country. Here goes!

The first thing to be mentioned is that along with other Asean countries the Thai economy is rolling and this is expected to continue right into 2011. That has been regularly reported in our News Updates.

However, beneath that buoyant scenario, the political scene remains a bit unsettled. The government’s reform and reconciliation effort goes forward with little news to report. The time to hear the results of the various committees is generally accepted to be the end of this year. Will miracle cures and solutions be proposed to address the social and economic equities? Who knows?

There has been a spate of bombs placed around Bangkok. In Chiang Mai, near the company of the father of powerful politician, Newin Chidcob, bombs were most recently placed with no injuries and little damage. This has raised the issue of imposing a state of emergency in Chiang Mai but the government and generals say no.

In Bangkok, the cancellation of an event on human rights in Vietnam were made possible by the Thai Foreign Ministry when the visas of two activists in France was cancelled by the Thai embassy in Paris. This is sure to give Thailand a black eye on the international scene,especially since it is chairing the UN Human Rights Commission. The doctrine of Thailand always seeming to want it both ways seems to apply in this situation: “We support free speech but of course, we don’t support it.”

Siding with the communist regime in Vietnam will make no friends for Thailand and prolong the negative perception that many have of the present Thai government.

A seminar held last week by the English-language newspaper focused on how the government should raise money to support the goals of easing the rich-poor divide that sparked the recent red shirt protest.

An issue is that a lot of the money made in Thailand goes untaxed, the product of the so-called shadow economy. There are a lot of expensive cars seen on Bangkok streets. The last one this reporter spotted was a Lamborghini.

Two suggestions were a capital gains tax or a windfall profit tax. Good ideas, let’s see if they get beyond the seminar.

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