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ASEAN ANALYSIS  16  August 2010

Asean is working

By David Swartzentruber
AseanAffairs   16 August 2010

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This morning on my way to work I got behind a large truck carrying construction workers to their site. It brought to mind another sight that I observed Saturday and it caught me by surprise. On this large corner lot, there used to be a row of optical stores, where I once purchased a pair of glasses, and a barber shop where I always got my hair cut. Now all are gone.

To make way for something bigger and better one presumes, another Bangkok hotel or condominium, that’s my hunch. Bangkok is on a condominium building binge. Every week flyers are stuck in my front gate to abandon my home in a delightful Thai neighborhood for a 30th floor Nirvana still smelling of fresh concrete.

The fact is that there is very little “bad” economic news in our AseanAffairs News Updates-every Asean country is reporting solid growth continuing into 2011. The good news seems monotonous.

Take Thailand for example. The protests of the red-shirt movement peaked May n19 with arson attacks and the loss of 90 lives over the two-month siege laid on Bangkok by a group of old-line Marxists, a large group of supporters of fugitive former prime minister Thaksin and a cadre of trained insurgents that made bombs, fired rifle-powered grenades at innocent commuters and carried out arson attacks on 39 public and private buildings.

Many in the west and even Asia had written “The Land of Smiles” off. However, look again.

Last week the International Monetary Fund raised Thailand’s projected growth rate to reach 7.5 percent. Several auto companies have announced expansion, including Ford, and other companies are thinking about making their move.

Even tourist arrivals were up 13. 7 percent through the first six months of 2010-a period that included the unfortunate protests. From what I see on the streets, that figure will be easily topped by December. Today the state of emergency was lifted in Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai and Ubon Ratchathani provinces.

By the way, Thailand has US$148 billion in its central bank the 10th-largest foreign exchange reserves in the world.

In American baseball, there is a saying that “its never over until the last batter is out.”

Perhaps western journalists should be a little closer to the scene when making judgments about Asean countries. If that happened, their stories might be more accurate as well as their crystal ball predictions.

I wish you a good day from Bangkok.

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