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Asean Affairs  7  March 2011

Economic pressures raise political tensions

By  David Swartzentruber

AseanAffairs     7 March 2011

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Across the wide swath of geography that constitutes Asean from the Philippines to Vietnam, rising inflation and pressure from commodity foodstuffs and auto fuel prices are taxing the governments.

Today’s news heralded a speech by Thailand’s Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva that indicated a new election would be called “within weeks.” Local comment has it that the government wants to expedite the election as the economic situation may worsen due to the conditions in the Mideast, which are beyond the control of the Thai government and most other governments, as well.

Already in Thailand there have been shortages of palm oil and a subsidy for diesel fuel will run out of funds in 23 days. Rice farmers are also complaining about the low price of rice as Thai rice exports were undercut when Vietnam recently devalued its currency.

In the Philippines, the inflation rate reached a 10-month high sparked by gasoline and diesel fuel increases, higher electricity rates, increased land transportation costs and even increased fruit and vegetable prices.

The question arises, “Will the cost of oil stop the world’s economic rebound in its tracks?” Battles continue in Libya and other Mideast nations show signs of unrest. As long as this unrest continues, 2011 may turn out to be a trying year for the global economy and the coming elections in Asean countries, such as Malaysia and Thailand, may be impacted by the economic situation. A common political rule of thumb is: “voters often vote with their pocket books.”

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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