ASEAN KEY DESTINATIONS
Thailand after the election
By David Swartzemtruber
Tomorrow, barring an unforeseen downpour, the Democrat party will hold a rally in Ratchaprasong, Thailand’s main upscale shopping area. This was the location of last year’s May 19 army dispersal of red shirt protesters. Shots were fired from both sides killing 92 people and a subsequent arson attack by the red shirts destroyed many private and public buildings.
The latest polls reveal a tightening of the race with an estimated 10 million undecided voters poised to determine the eventual outcome.
Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, locally known as “Mark,” promises that revelations will be made regarding the actual facts of last year’s Ratchaprasong conflict. This will be the Democrats last major Bangkok rally and it certainly sounds like it will be a day of stem-winders.
Yesterday, however, in a quieter milieu, the offices of Asean Affairs, a veteran Thai businessman gave us a comforting perspective.
Yeap Swee Chuan,63 and born in Malaysia, is President and CEO, AAPICO Hitech Public Company Ltd. and Chairman and Director of companies in the AAPICO Group, a supplier of parts to Thailand’s large and dynamic auto industry. He has been in Thailand more than 30 years and is president of the Malaysian-Thai Chamber of Commerce.
During that time frame he pointed out that whatever political changes Thailand had gone through, coups or elections, the support the country gave to businesses never wavered. He expects that this will be the case, no matter what party forms the next government.
He noted that this year, in spite of the setbacks that Japanese auto firms have suffered due to the tsunami and nuclear disaster, Thailand is expected to ship a record 1.9 million vehicles from its plants in southeastern Thailand, about 100 miles from Bangkok. The 2010 total was 1.7 million vehicles.
Another interesting fact is that tourism arrivals are running 24 percent ahead of last year’s figures year on year. Recently, Bangkok was again documented by arrival figures as Asia’s favorite city to visit.
Mr. Yeap attributes Thailand’s ability to find equilibrium after political conflicts to its Buddhist faith-the “middle road.” He said, “They don’t get too exuberant or too low, they always seem to find a balance.”
This pattern is likely to persist after the coming election.
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