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Asean Affairs  25  February 2011

New dawn for jailed red shirts

By  David Swartzentruber

AseanAffairs     25 February 2011

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Nine months after being jailed for participation in the red shirt protest that ended on May 19, 2010, seven leaders, all men, were released from a Thai prison this week.

The leaders were jailed on terrorism charges that carry the death sentence.

Those who testified before the court on the release of the men said the release would aid the national reconciliation effort. The court released the men on the condition that they not leave Thailand and not make comments “to incite unrest.”

The leaders plan to run in the next general election, which may fall in June. If elected, they hope that their status as party list MPs would grant them immunity from prosecution in an ex post facto way, that is unique to Thai law.

The opposition party, Pheu Thai, however, must make the decision to place the seven leaders on the ballot and at this time there is uncertainty on the issue.

"We don't want any candidate to be disqualified later because we hope to form a government after this election," said Pheu Thai spokesman Pormpong Nopparit.

Recent opinion polls have shown the current party in power, the Democrats, to be in the lead as like most electorates, when the economy is good, Thai voters see little need to change horses.

However, Thai politics can be a bit mercurial and the recent surge in oil prices due to the unstable Mideast political situation and inflation due to the price of food, could whittle away the Democrat lead.

Some Thai people see the Democrat regime as undemocratic as it assumed power through parliamentary means rather than a direct election.

The months leading up to a June election will be quite newsworthy as opposition parties gear up to oppose the Democrats.

Paul A. Ebeling, Jnr

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This year in Thailand-what next?

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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