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Asean Affairs    18  August  2011

Thailand’s politics begins to boil

By  David Swartzemtruber

AseanAffairs     18  August 2011

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It’s been just six weeks since Yingluck Shinawatra carried the Pheu Thai party to victory in a general election but already political developments suggest the new government is off to an unsettling start.

The developments are in the political, economic and educational fields and are reactions to the Pheu Thai’s policies or recent actions.

The political issue concerns the entry visa to Japan granted to former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra. At first, the Thai government said the request for the visa came from Japan, but the Japanese later said that new Thai Foreign Minister Surapong Towijakchaikul had requested the visa.

Mr. Thaksin is a fugitive from Thai justice having been found guilty of intervening in the sale of land to his then wife, while he was prime minister. He has stated he will not serve his two-year jail sentence.

The losing Democrat party states that Mr. Surapong violated articles 189 and 192 of the Criminal Code for failing to seek Mr. Thaksin’s extradition, despite knowing his address in Dubai.

The sentence for aiding a fugitive from justice is 3 years.

On the economic front, electronics firm, Hana Microelectronics Plc, an employer of 10,000, mainly in Thailand and a few in China, is exploring the possibility of relocating to Vietnam or China because of the increase in the minimum wage to 300 baht (US$10) per day.

Chief executive Richard Han said the increase planned by the new Pheu Thai-led government would hurt Hana's bottom line too much.

The new minimum wage was a vital plank in the Pheu Thai party’s election platform and the party seeks to impose the new wage unilaterally rather than in stages. Business leaders have called for an incremental wage increase.

On the educational front, the giveaway of tablet computers to primary school children is encountering opposition from several directions. The purchase of the tablets will consume 9 percent of the Thai Education Department’s budget, which seems an extravagant expenditure to many. There is also great uncertainty about the ability of teachers to use them effectively in the schools as there have been no teacher training plans provided in the government’s proposal.

Thai public education has been roundly criticized for being outdated, poorly managed and failing to educate Thai children properly for many years because of poorly prepared teachers.

The new Thai government is expected to deliver its policy goals to the country on August 24. That will be the next major development in Thailand’s democratic evolution.

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This year in Thailand-what next?

AseanAffairs   04 January 2011
By David Swartzentruber      

It is commonplace in journalism to write two types of articles at the transition point between the year that has passed and the New Year. As this writer qualifies as an “old hand” in observing Thailand with a track record dating back 14 years, it is time take a shot at what may unfold in Thailand in 2011.

The first issue that can’t be answered is the health of Thailand’s beloved King Bhumibol, who is now 83 years old. He is the world's longest reigning monarch, but elaborate birthday celebrations in December failed to mask concern over his health. More


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