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Weekly NewsLetter
16 May 2011
    Vol.1 No.14

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The Editor's Corner


Coming your way-the Thai general election
          Thai politics always seems to grab media attention both regionally and internationally and expect the same as the July 3 election approaches.

I think the reasons for this are its unpredictability and unique features. Among these is the issue of vote buying. In almost every opinion poll taken in Thailand, the majority of respondents say they would easily sell their vote if offered cash. Another feature is the presence of the Thai army hovering in the background.

Although Army Chief Prayuth Chan-ocha has stated that the army will avoid politics, it already has played a role. The army recently filed “lese majeste” charges against 11 opposition red shirt leaders and two red shirt co-leaders, Jatuporn Prompan and Nisit Sintupra, are behind bars, as they have been denied bail. Jatuporn is a fiery speaker and former MP, whose absence on the campaign trail will hurt the chances of the Pheu Thai party.

The army and police also raided 13 community radio stations and shut them down by removing equipment because they had broadcast Mr. Jatuporn’s “lese majeste” speech.

On Monday the Pheu Thai party will endorse its candidate for Prime Minister and the first choice seems to be the youngest sister of deposed fugitive prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, Yingluck Shinawatra. Ms. Yingluck has had no political experience and many party members say she is not the equal of her opponents, especially Abihist Vejjaviva, the leader of the Democrat party and the incumbent prime minister.

The Pheu Thai party is at a disadvantage as 111 of its former executives are banned from politics as the result of the dissolution of two political parties that preceded Pheu Thai. Other parties posting candidates in the election include: the Thai Nation Development Party, Nation's Progress For Country Party, Love Thailand Party, Pride in Thai Party, a Motherland Party, the Peaceful People Party the Peace-Loving Party and the Power of Sport Party.

Thai observers say neither of the two main parties, the Democrat and Pheu Thai, will not be able to gain the necessary majority of 250 parliament seats. They then will have to turn to medium-sized parties to form a coalition. That necessity brings in the Bhumjaithai and Chart Thai Pattana parties to form a coalition. Bhumjaithai is a current coalition partner of the Democrat party.

Essentially, the coming election is likely to produce little change in the makeup of the Thai government.


Top News from Southeast Asia

May 15 , 2011


These were the most important stories published by Asean Affairs during the week of May 7-13.

Myanmar wants 2014 chairmanship
Myanmar stole the headlines of the Asean Summit on Friday when it announced that the military-led country and serial human rights abuser had asked to chair the group in 2014.

Thai PM Abhisit submits dissolution decree  
Kicking off the countdown to the next election late next month or in early July, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has submitted for royal endorsement a decree to dissolve the House of Representatives.

Southeast Asia still considering nuclear  
As Asean countries discussed alternative sources of energy to prepare for a departure from using fossil fuels, the possibility of turning to nuclear energy was not out of the question, despite the ongoing crisis in Japan.

Doubts rise on integrating Asean 
Despite President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono proclaiming significant progress in efforts to form an Asean Economic Community by 2015, some Indonesian observers and lawmakers have yet to be convinced about the scheme.

Singapore elections signal change 
Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong pledged his People's Action Party (PAP) will change the way it governs after returning to power with the smallest margin of popular votes as the opposition won a record number of seats.

Declining US dollar gives edge to imports  
A declining US dollar price on the free market and at commercial banks has given imported goods a competitive edge over their domestic counterparts, Vietnamese industry insiders say.

Ministers agree on border observers  
The foreign ministers of Cambodia and Thailand have agreed on a deal calling it a so-called "package solution" to allow the deployment of Indonesian monitors to the disputed border area.

Asean open to Myanmar leadership, BUT 
Indonesia, as the current chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, says Myanmar still needs to prove its move toward democracy is sincere if it wants to lead the bloc in 2014.

Corruption plagues corporate Thailand  
Lax law enforcement has resulted in various forms of corruption among local and international companies and subsidiaries to artificially boost share prices and evade taxes, resulting in severe damage to the economic system, say experts.

Mekong dam put on hold  
Construction of the controversial Xayaburi dam will be delayed after the Laotian government officially informed its Thai contractor that more study of the environmental impact is required for the $3.8-billion project on the Mekong River.

Najib addresses religious uproar  
Prime Minister Najib Razak on Wednesday sought to calm the raging debate over Islam's position as the official religion of Malaysia, in the wake of a newspaper report that some Christians and the opposition are plotting to make Malaysia a Christian nation.

San Miguel credit outlook cut  
Standard & Poor’s Rating Services (S&P) on Wednesday said it has downgraded its credit outlook for the Philippines’ biggest food and beverage maker on the back of the conglomerate’s weaker financial risk profile.

Microfinance increases in Cambodia 
Commercial banks in Cambodia said Thursday they welcome a larger role for microfinance institutions (MFI) in thecountry, following an announcement that the National Bank of Cambodia had granted a deposit licence to VisionFund Cambodia.

Petronas to build refinery 
State-owned oil company, Petronas, will construct a US$20 billion (RM60bil) integrated refinery and petrochemicals complex in Southern Johor to be commissioned by the end of 2016, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak announced Friday.

Vietnam needs more investment  
Vietnam needs US$10-15 billion per year to sufficiently invest in its own infrastructure.

Hot money surges in Philippines 
Foreign portfolio investments (FPI) registered net inflows last month amid the Philippines’ favorable credit conditions, the Philippine central bank said on Thursday.

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