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Asean Affairs  31 May 2011

Politics and economics in Thailand

By  David Swartzemtruber

AseanAffairs     31 May 2011

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It is 32 days before the general election in Thailand and in the dynamic and always interesting world of Thai politics events are unfolding rapidly. The elections come at a time of inflationary pressures on the Thai economy.

Bloomberg is reporting that the Bank of Thailand will boost its benchmark one-day bond repurchase rate by a quarter of a percentage point to 3 percent on Wednesday afternoon, according to a survey of economists.

The Thai economy is strong and as Japanese auto firms rebound from the recent disasters, the Thai economy looks even better for the rest of the year with inflation the biggest issue.

On the political front, the Democrats , currently the ruling party, are itching for a debate with their adversary, the Pheu Thai candidate Yingluck Shinawatra. The Democrat leader, Abhisit Vejjajiva, is regarded as a formidable debater, while Ms. Shinawatra is a political novice. She was appointed to the #1 post in the Pheu Thai party by her fugitive brother, former prime minister Thaksin Sinawatra, currently residing in an elaborate home in Dubai rather than a Thai prison.

The two parties are using different political strategies. Pheu Thai employs large rallies that grab attention, while the Democrats are talking to the various groups that will benefit from their policies in a door to door approach.

Meanwhile, Newin Chidcob , leader of the Bhumjaithai party that is strong ion the Northeast says he is willing to form a coalition with either of the two major parties and predicted that neither Abhisit or Yingluck would be the next premier.

Thailand uses the parliamentary system in its electoral system. The party that has the most parliamentary seats gets the right to form the government. It is generally believed that neither the Democrat or Pheu Thai party will gather the 250 seats required for a majority government and it is also held that no party would team up with the Pheu Thai party to form a coalition.

Both parties are throwing what Thai media call populist policies at the voters. Pheu Thai says it will give tablet computers to all students and credit cards to farmers. The Democrats emphasize a guaranteed income and for their children, free schooling.

Voter polls indicate a large number of undecided voters but also suggest a Pheu Thai lead. More electioneering, more charges, more strategy will fly during the next two weeks. Will there be a debate between the two leading contenders?

Most observers say the election results will not reconcile the country. The election results could just be the start of political uncertainty in Thailand.

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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