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Asean Affairs  19 May 2011

Two battles heat up in Asean

By  David Swartzemtruber

AseanAffairs     19 May 2011

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Today two political battles are heating up in the Asean community and expect numerous headlines about these political developments in the next two months.

In the Philippines, the Reproductive Health (RH) bill in now under debate in the Philippine Congress and pits the Catholic Church and the government in a hotly contested battle. To underline its cause, Filipino boxing champion, national hero and elected Representative, Emmanuel “Manny” Pacquiao of Sarangan,i was pictured in the Philippine press sitting next to a Catholic priest stating his opposition to the bill.

One tactic that the bill’s opponents have proposed is to refuse to pay taxes if the bill passes, however, Pacquiao has opposed this tactic.

The reasoning behind the bill is to offer the Philippines poor, who are many, birth control methods and information to help curb the country’s birth rate. The Philippines has a population of 93 million and the country is strained to feed them all. The Philippines is currently the 11th most populous country in the world and its birth rate (25.34) is one of the highest in Asia.

In Thailand, the one-year anniversary of the Thai Army’s dispersal of red shirt protesters that resulted in 92 deaths is being observed by a red shirt gathering at the protest site along with four police companies to maintain order.

There are 42 days until the Thai general election on July 3 and it is expected that the campaign and the election results will escalate social and political tensions.

At least 10 red-shirt leaders will stand as party-list candidates for the opposition Pheu Thai Party in the July election in a bid to draw massive numbers of votes from the red-shirt movement. The Pheu Thai party champions the cause of former and fugitive Thaksin Shinawatra, who has picked his youngest sister, Yingluck, as a candidate for Prime Minister.

The Pheu Thai party has also said that if it governs, it will propose a blanket amnesty for both the red shirt (pro-Thaksin) group including Thaksin, himself, and the anti-Thaksin yellow shirt group. Such a move is sure to reignite the political split in the country. Reform measures proposed by a panel to alleviate the split in the country have not been implemented or even considered by any political party.

Meanwhile, current Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva says the choice is between progress and protests in the upcoming election.

Paul A. Ebeling, Jnr

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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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