“The losing party in the last several Thai elections has not acknowledged defeat and this has led to civil disruptions.” This Thai election may change that.
The Thai Election 2011 TV show produced by Asean Affairs on Friday, June 24, attracted widespread international media attention. Covering the panel discussion were: Astro Awani TV channel of Malaysia, Yunnan TV of China, Capital Television Thailand and Channel News Asia. In the audience were reporters from Reuters, French media, Le Petit Journal and local media, Bangkok Post and The Nation, Bangkok Today and Naewna newspapers.
Spring News TV, a local news channel covering the event, reported a sharp audience increase during its live broadcast of the election show.
Participating in the panel, moderated by Swarup Roy, founder and CEO of Asean Affairs, were spokespersons for the two major parties contesting the election, Anik Amranand for the Democrat party and Pichai Naripthaphan, adviser to the Pheu Thai party. Analysts and experts of the Thai political scene also appearing were: Nattakorn Devakula, Dr. Kriengsak Chareonwongsak, Yeap Swee Chuan, Voronai Vanijaka, Seth Kane and Thanrith Satrusayang.
The format of the program was divided into two hour-long sessions covering the main political and economic issues facing Thailand.
The first issue asked which of the two political parties would be able to bring reconciliation to Thailand, which has experienced a sharp political division since the 2006 coup. The division pits the red shirt supporters of fugitive former prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and the Pheu Thai party and supporters of the incumbent Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and the Democrat party.
Mr. Pichai expressed the view that Thailand’s democracy” had fallen down in every respect in the last five years” as the situation that “people don’t accept the election results, has become chronic.” He also compared the red shirts to the recent protesters in various Mideast countries.
Ms. Anik also laid the blame for the current division in Thailand on the inability of the red shirts and their backer, Mr. Thaksin, to accept the rule of law. She said it was also ironic that the “fight of the poor” was led by the country’s “richest person” (Mr. Thaksin) and that the “Democrats could accept defeat” at the coming polls.
Mr. Nattakorn added that reconciliation in the country was not needed if the losing side of the election simply accepted defeat in the coming polls, but in recent elections that has not happened.
Dr. Kriengsak thinks that the outcome of the July 3 election will not bring a “future of peace” because the two sides are “unwilling to talk” with each other. In this case he asked, “How can there be peace?”
He observed that he anticipated turmoil after the election with charges of fraud, the disqualification of winning candidates by the Election Commission and even challenges to the way the ballots have been printed. At the moment he is heavy-hearted about this impending turmoil and hopes that “somehow through negotiations” the prospective turmoil can be ended.
Longtime auto executive, Mr. Yeap, voiced an optimistic note when he said that in his more than 20 years in Thailand, “problems settle by themselves.”
EconomicsTurning to the economic issues in the campaign, the issue presented was that there has historically been a “firewall” insulating Thai business operations from the country’s political turmoil and can this be expected to continue.
Most panelists suggested this would continue but with some reservations.................