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Asean Affairs   4 July  2011

The morning after

By  David Swartzemtruber

AseanAffairs     4 July 2011

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The morning after Thailand’s election became part of history the country is taking a deep breath and looking forward to see if the Pheu Thai party delivers on its promises to bring the nation together.

The first point about the election is that the outcome should not have surprised anyone. All of the Thai election polls suggested Pheu Thai (PT) would win the most parliamentary seats, the only question was if PT would get a majority of 250 seats. As of now, their total is 269.

The big surprise was how PT decimated the projections for the Bhum Jai Thai (BJT) party. The BJT is based in northern Thailand, the same stronghold as Pheu Thai. In 2008 BJT abandoned its relationship with former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra to form an alliance with the Democrat party. That alliance lost this election and BJT appears to have won only 34 seats, about half of what it was projected to win. BJT’s political influence has certainly been reduced.

PT has promised Thais a great deal in its so-called “populist” platform.

Here’s what editorialists in the two English-language newspapers are saying this morning. The Bangkok Post says the Democrats’ inability to control the price of basic items such as eggs and palm oil played a factor in their defeat. The paper went on to say that grassroots people have hopes that their lives will improve under PT.

However, the Post cautions that raising the daily wage to 300 baht per day nationwide as PT has proposed could force many employers to close and worsen the economy. It also noted that granting amnesty to Mr. Thaksin could reopen the social divide that it proposes to close. The paper suggests that Ms. Yingluck should focus on the economy and let a neutral body tackle the reconciliation process.

The Nation editorialists welcome the pro-change and pro-reform agenda proposed by PT’s economic team.

However, the paper cited “Sompop Manarungsan, an economist at Chulalongkorn University, who feared that populist policies would drag the country's progress due to their high costs with little productive gains. The Pheu Thai Party has an ambitious plan to increase GDP from US$300 billion to $800 billion in the next 10 years, but populist policies [cash handouts and easy credit] would drag [down] growth," Sompop said.

However, The Nation is also concerned that PT does not falter in the same ways that led to the downfall of previous political parties that carried the Thaksin Shinawatra banner.

The newspaper said: “ Political legitimacy contains both written and unwritten rules. This is about the exercise of good and honest leadership. It is about tackling both financial and political corruption. It is about maintaining justice, fairness, and freedom of the press.

This leaves no room for amnesty to any person. Nor is the road paved with roses for the expected next female and inexperienced Thai prime minister, as Yingluck's professional political career is just six weeks old.

With the party expected to have a slim majority in the House, Thai voters have handed Pheu Thai a limited mandate.”

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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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