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Weekly NewsLetter
11  July  2011
    Vol.1 No.22

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The Editor's Corner


A retrospect on the Thai election
          It has been one week since the Thai election was held and here are the significant results and implications of that election.

1. The Pheu Thai party won a majority of the parliamentary seats over the Democrats and has gone forward to cement its position by forming a coalition with five minor parties for a total of 300 seats or votes, 49 more than the minimum majority of 251 seats. The Pheu Thai leader and prime minister-elect of Thailand is Yingluck Shinawatra, who was appointed by her elder brother, former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra. He now lives in Dubai to avoid a two-year jail sentence in Thailand on a graft conviction.

2. The Democrat party was trounced but held its traditional power bases in Bangkok (23 seats versus 10 for Pheu Thai) and the South. To win a national election, the Democrats must get votes from other parts of the country, especially from the northeast, where the majority of voters live.

3. The election went smoothly and there was no violence. Elections results will be finalized and announced July 12. Media report that 95 percent of the parliamentary seats are expected to be “clean,” while 5 percent of the seats may call for another election because of irregularities such as documented vote buying.

4. The challenge facing novice politician, Ms. Yingluck, is to govern and media reports indicate a rocky start as she has taken contradictory positions on issues. For example, the election motto of the Pheu Thai party was, “Thaksin Thinks, Pheu Thai Acts.” Now Ms. Yingluck says she will not visit her brother in Dubai and will make policy in Bangkok. Another contradictory and dangerous issue is the role of the elected red shirt MPs in the new government. The red shirts are now trying to get their “just rewards” for helping carry Pheu Thai to victory.

5. Divisive issues right now are the projected nationwide increase of the minimum daily wage to 300 baht ($US10) and whether red shirt leaders will be given cabinet positions in the new government lineup.

Both the Democrat and the Pheu Thai parties proposed increases in daily wages as platform planks, however, the Democrats plan was for a more gradual increase and that and their other proposals were supported by most economists over Pheu Thai proposals. Business groups and leaders have uniformly opposed the Pheu Thai wage increase proposal.

The red shirt movement was has strong support in northeast Thailand, especially in so-called “red shirt villages.” However, on May 19, 2010, the red shirts refused to leave their encampment in a main shopping area in Bangkok and the Thai army was called on to move them out.

This resulted in 91 deaths on both sides and an arson counterattack by the red shirts on public and private buildings that resulted in millions of dollars of damage. Giving red shirt MPs cabinet positions would certainly ignite strong opposition in Thailand and might lead to street demonstrations by those opposed to the red shirts and even a possible coup.

6. Article 97 of the current Thai constitution states that banned politicians cannot play an active role in Thai politics. The Democrats have filed a legal suit with the Election Commission that will have to be decided by the Constitutional Court that alleges that banned politicians from previous Thaksin political parties played an instrumental and active role in Pheu Thai’s campaign.

It will take months for the court to hear and decide the issue as the pace of the Thai legal system is slow, but if the allegations are upheld the Pheu Thai party would be dissolved. This would be the third Thaksin-inspired party to be dissolved.

Conclusion: The election was a success but the political stability created by the election could have a short lifespan.


Top News from Southeast Asia

July 10 , 2011


These were the most important stories published by Asean Affairs during the week of July 2-July 8.

Indonesia raises growth rate
Indonesia raised its growth target to as much as 7 percent next year over optimism that inflation would be kept at bay and that its master plan for development would boost the economy.

Business opposes 300 baht Thai minimum wage 
The Pheu Thai Party intends to increase the minimum wage to 300 baht (US$10) a day nationwide - 40-90 percent above current levels - by January, as academics and businesses warn of negative impacts on the national economy.

Philippines criticized for renewable energy incentives delay  
The International Finance Corp. (FIC) has slammed the delay in the implementation of the incentives provided for under the Renewable Energy Law.

Investors unsure of Thai political stability 
Investors reacted positively to the peaceful election, but they are still unsure about long-term stability since political parties led by Thaksin Shinawatra and his allies have had short shelf lives.

Traffic jams costly to Jakarta  
Jakarta's traffic chaos costs Indonesia more than US$3 billion a year in a depressing reminder of the gap between the country's ambitions for growth and its daily realities, analysts say.

Indonesians see Thai stability as investment threat  
Indonesian business leaders on Monday hailed Thailand’s smooth election but warned that stability in the country may make it more attractive for investors who might otherwise have targeted the archipelago.

Pheu Thai carries Thailand  
Novice politician Yingluck Shinawatra has led Pheu Thai Party to an overwhelming election win, throwing out the Democrat-led government and winning 265 parliamentary seats or more of the 500 seats in parliament. The runner-up Democrat party carried 159 seats.

Philippines may relax construction ownership rules  
The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) may relax foreign ownership in the construction sector to attract more investment.

Indo banks need to focus on infrastructure  
Indonesian business leaders have urged the central bank and the government to change some guidelines that were set during the financial crisis 13 years ago and allow banks to provide large loans for infrastructure projects.

Energy find may be behind China’s behavior  
The Philippines said that it could only wonder why China has recently become more aggressive in asserting its claims to disputed islands in the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea).

Indonesian inflation down 
Indonesia’s inflation eased in June to its lowest level in a year, adding to sentiment that the central bank will hold its key interest rate steady this month.

Pheu Thai's oil policy sparks confusion  
The Pheu Thai party's plan to scrap the state oil fund could result in a palm oil surplus and low prices for fresh palm nuts, as there would be no incentive to make biodiesel from the output, warns a senior Agriculture Ministry official.

Red shirts can be ministers  
The selection of cabinet members will be based on their knowledge and competence and is not out of bounds to red shirts if they are qualified, prime minister-elect Yingluck Shinawatra said on Thursday.

Australia lifts ban on Indo cattle exports 
The Australian government has lifted its ban on live cattle exports to Indonesia on the condition that stricter regulations be imposed on industry participants.

Pheu Thai-red shirt friction gets hot 
The alliance between the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship and the Pheu Thai Party is beginning to fall apart as hardline red shirt partisans press their demands.

SBY slams "50 Percent" ministers 
Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono called out his cabinet on Thursday for its failure to push through needed programs, slapping a failing grade on the ministers in an impromptu job review.

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