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Weekly NewsLetter
8  August  2011
    Vol.1 No.26

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The Editor's Corner


Thailand’s new PM is a woman
          Yesterday, Friday, August 5, Yingluck Shinawatra, became Thailand’s first female prime minister.

Before her selection as the #1 candidate on the Pheu Thai party list by her elder brother, deposed fugitive former prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, she was a minor figure on the Thai scene and had resisted earlier attempts by her brother to bring her into politics.

She waltzed through the two-month election campaign using her good looks in what might be called a “charm offensive” and ducking the issues. The platform developed by Mr. Thaksin for Pheu Thai included a pledge of a 300 baht (US$10) daily minimum wage, solving Bangkok’s perennial flood problems, building a new financial capital city, constructing 10 new electric light rail lines with a fixed fee of Bt20 (US.70¢) per ride, a 15,000 baht (US$ 500) starting wage for university graduates, boosting rice prices, building five high-speed rail lines and supplying tablet computers to elementary students.

Many economists think that these so-called “populist” policies could be too much for Thailand’s economy and might even undermine Thailand’s position as the world’s leading rice exporter by making rice too costly. Vietnam is at Thailand’s heels and is quite capable of displacing Thai rice on the world market.

However, Ms. Yingluck faces a host of political issues that would tax the most skillful political figure, which she is not, at least at this point in her career. The top issues are reconciliation of the opposite poles of Thai society that brought about last year’s divisive and deadly street protests and the army’s intervention to maintain order that cost 91 lives on both sides.

Underlying reconciliation is the issue of amnesty and that involves not only red shirt leaders who are scheduled to go on trial in mid-2012 but Mr. Thaksin, himself. He resides comfortably in Dubai to avoid serving a two-year jail sentence for graft and corruption. Returning to Thailand would also trigger the resumption of several other pending legal cases against him.

The red shirts have joined forces with Pheu Thai and several have been elected to parliament.

Their strident demands could easily tear Pheu Thai apart.

Thailand has successfully gone through the election phase and a new cabinet is now being formed.

Ms. Yingluck can no longer duck the issues and even with a 60 percent majority in the lower house, the real test of her leadership now begins with her brother’s presence always lingering in the background.


Top News from Southeast Asia

August  6 , 2011


These were the most important stories published by Asean Affairs during the week of July 30-August 5.

Two churches burned in Indonesia
Two homes used as churches were burned to the ground in Riau on Tuesday night, a report said.

Toshiba makes Thailand AEC export center  
Japan’s Toshiba Corporation will make its Thai unit a center for manufacturing and exporting home appliances to Asean to benefit from the Asean Economic Community (AEC) to take effect in 2015.

Buoyant Indonesian economy as others struggle  
As heavily indebted developed economies struggle to grow this year, Indonesia's economy continued its rapid expansion.

Car ownership limit proposed in Jakarta  
Jakarta Police Chief Insp. Gen. Untung S. Rajab remained adamant on Wednesday that instead of imposing color-based restrictions on private vehicles to ease the city's traffic, the authorities should focus on restricting car ownership.

Consensus reached on sea dispute  
Vietnam and China concluded working-level negotiations on marine issues on Monday, reaching a consensus to solve East Sea (South China Sea) issues through peaceful measures.

Amnesty for illegal Indo workers  
Illegal Indonesian migrant workers should take advantage of the opportunity offered by an amnesty program for illegal foreign workers in Malaysia to strike better working agreements with employers, activists said on Tuesday.

Philippines banks may increase reserves  
Two of the country’s largest banks backed the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas’ (BSP) move to increase reserve requirements, with another hike seen later this year.

Singapore’s Changi airport gets upgrade  
Terminal 1, Changi Airport's oldest and busiest terminal, is giving travelers and visitors more to do and enjoy now that a $500 million overhaul is more than 85 percent completed.

Conserving water in Thailand  
Thailand has a unique water situation. Areas of the country that are flooded, six months later are drought-stricken. The answer could lie in conserving water.

Academic calls for Vietnam banking industry reforms  
The Vietnamese banking sector needs to be reformed, according to Huynh The Du, a lecturer affiliated with the Fulbright Economics Teaching Program.

New Indonesian bank ownership rule floated  
The Indonesian central bank's recent admission that it wants to enforce ownership limits for commercial banks has caused nervousness in Indonesia's banking community.

Is Laos building Mekong dam?  
Ting does not know exactly how the proposed Xayaburi hydropower dam will change his life, but he knows he will be forced to leave his village if it goes ahead.

FDI drops in Vietnamese property  
Foreign investment in the property sector this year has been the lowest in the last five years, with analysts attributing it to the lingering impact of the economic meltdown.

Philippines gets no rating upgrade  
The Philippines failed to snag a fresh upgrade from Standard & Poor’s even after Manila’s representations for a lift in its credit rating.

Singapore industry is optimistic  
Manufacturers and services firms in Singapore remain optimistic on prospects, according to surveys of business expectations for the third quarter of the year released on Friday.

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