Peering into Thailand’s turbulent future

A Thai pro-government Red Shirt protester holds a placard showing a picture of caretaker Thai Premier Yingluck Shinawatra during a rally on the outskirts of Bangkok, Thailand, 6 April 2014. (Photo: AAP)

Authors: Pasuk Phongpaichit, Chulalongkorn University, and Chris Baker, Bangkok

The courts may shortly remove Thailand’s prime minister, Yingluck Shinawatra.

This would mean that in the past eight years, four prime ministers have been felled and four election results voided — surely a world record. Read more…

No luck for Yingluck as Thai elections nullified

Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra casts her ballot in the senate elections at a polling station in Bangkok on 30 March 2014. The NACC has charged Yingluck with malfeasance over her government’s rice-pledging scheme and the senate has the authority to impeach Yingluck. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Thitinan Pongsudhirak, Chulalongkorn University

The recent decision by Thailand’s Constitutional Court to nullify the 2 February elections has put the country on a collision course between those who advocate electoral democracy, even at the cost of corruption, and others who are bent on unelected rule based on what they see as virtuous moral authority. Read more…

Thailand’s rice subsidy scheme rotting away

Thai farmers battle with soldiers as they protest the government's repeatedly delayed payments for rice submitted to the pledging scheme at the government's temporary office in Bangkok on 17 February 2014. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Peter Warr, ANU

Thailand’s rice subsidy scheme has turned into a political and economic disaster. The problem could have been avoided if the government had listened to its own advisors.

Raising the price of rice received by Thailand’s rice farmers was a key promise of the ruling Pheu Thai Party at the 2011 election Read more…

Give Thailand’s democracy a chance

An election official reads a ballot during a vote counting after the general election in Bangkok on 2 February 2014. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Thitinan Pongsudhirak, Chulalongkorn University

Thailand went ahead with the polls on 2 February despite a boycott by the opposition Democrat Party and blockades by anti-government protestors. Unsurprisingly, the election failed to resolve the political deadlock. Yet despite the as-yet incomplete and inconclusive poll results, electoral democracy ironically works in Thailand. Read more…

Land of the free still trapped in political turmoil

Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra answers questions from the press after voting at a polling station in Bangkok on February 2, 2014. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Pisit Leeahtam, Chiang Mai University

Thailand’s economy began 2013 with initial forecasts for yearly growth ranging between 4.5 per cent and 5.5 per cent. The country had recovered from the 2011 flooding and the stock market had enjoyed a sharp rise since 2012. External demand was expected to improve thanks to signs of an upturn in the United States and Japan. General sentiments were high, although concern over domestic consumption grew out of rising household debt. Read more…

Rallying ‘round the flag in Thailand

A Thai anti-government protester waves the Thai national flag as he joins a rally at Silom road, a major business centre in Bangkok, Thailand, 5 February 2014. (Photo: AAP)

Author: David Hopkins, Melbourne

For the anti-government protest movement in Bangkok, the colours of the Thai national flag have been adopted as a kind of uniform of dissent. They are a binding symbol of opposition to Thaksinism and all that it is supposed to represent — corruption, nepotism, cronyism, vote-buying, anti-royalist tendencies and other alleged abuses of power attributed to the former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra and other pro-Thaksin parties since 2001. Read more…

Resolving Thailand’s deadly political imbroglio

Thai anti-government protesters shout slogans as they gather outside a polling station and block its access in Bangkok on 26 January, 2014. The protesters besieged polling stations around Bangkok forcing dozens to close as advance voting for controversial elections got under way, deepening doubts over the viability of the ballot scheduled for 2 February. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Peter Drysdale, Editor, East Asia Forum

Southeast Asia’s second-biggest economy, and one of its real economic success stories over the past decade, is stalled in a political standoff that threatens not only to halve its recent 6.5 per cent growth rate to 3 per cent this year but also undermine the fragile foundations of its democracy. Read more…

Blowing the whistle on Thai democracy

Thai anti-government protesters take to a street with a giant national flag during a march in Bangkok on 25 January, 2014. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Jacob Hogan, Chulalongkorn University

Amidst glitzy department stores and brand-name billboards, somewhere between 170,000 and 3 million self-described ‘peaceful’, ‘sophisticated’ and ‘educated’ protesters have paralysed central Bangkok in the past week. They are demanding the government’s resignation and the appointment of an unelected ‘council of elders’ to push through sweeping reforms in order to restore democracy and eliminate corruption in Thailand. Read more…

Thailand’s stark choice

Thai anti government protesters wave national flags next to riot police during a demonstration at Army Club in Bangkok on 10 December 2013. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Andrew Walker, ANU

As Thailand pauses to celebrate King Bhumibol’s birthday, it faces a stark choice: persevere with electoral democracy or plunge the nation into a dangerous phase of civil conflict.

Read more…

Thailand’s conservative courts political allies of royal interests

Thousands of Thai anti-government protesters march on the streets heading to Government House, Bangkok, Thailand, 09 December 2013. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Kevin Hewison, Murdoch University

Street battles have again erupted in Thailand. Suthep Thaugsuban, the latest anti-government protest leader, has declared a need to rid the country of the ‘Thaksin regime’. To do this he wants to move political power — at least for a time — to appointed ‘virtuous people’ who are not politicians. Read more…

Thailand’s amnesty bill revives national tensions

Thai protesters shout slogans against the government during a rally against the government of Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and passage of the amnesty bill (Photo: AAP).

Author: Boonwara Sumano, QMUL

In the early hours of 1 November 2013, the controversial Thai amnesty bill was pushed through the House of Representatives, which is controlled by the ruling party, Pheu Thai, by a vote of 310 to 0.

The fact that no one voted against this controversial measure is astonishing because the bill is considered by many as a crude betrayal Read more…

Thailand to become the Germany of Asia?

June 18, 2013 shows employees working on a car assembly line at a Honda plant in Ayuthaya, north of Bangkok

Authors: Mark Carroll and Janna De Vos, Australian–Thai Chamber of Commerce

Is Thailand poised to become the Germany of Asia — a rich, export-driven manufacturing powerhouse and regional logistics hub?

At first thought, the notion strikes as somewhat preposterous. But deeper consideration — and allowance for the Asian context — lends not just credibility to the possibility, but a likelihood of it eventuating. Read more…