The Politics of Practical Nostalgia

Newsweek3
The Politics of Practical Nostalgia - Newsweek, March 29, 2008

[Thaksin, along with three other Asian leaders, makes the cover of the Asian version of Newsweek under the headline "The New Pragmatists."]
...In neighboring Thailand, voters have broken a cycle of coups that goes back to the 1960s. In the past, junta leaders held on to power as long as they could and then installed civilian allies. But 14 months after generals ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, they were forced by public pressure to hold the Dec. 23 elections that Thaksin backers won. As a result, Thaksin has changed "the way things are done in Thailand," says Thitinan Pongsudhirak, director of the Institute of Security and International Studies at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok. "Today the forces at home and abroad are in his favor."
A successful economic answer to the pressures of globalization was central to Thaksin's rise and helps explain his return. During his five-year term the economy boomed, rural growth spiked and Thailand became the only country in Asia to narrow its rich-poor gap. His Thai Rak Thai party gained popularity by spending heavily on infrastructure and the poor, including village-level development programs and nearly free health care, yet keeping Thailand open to foreign investors and aggressively promoting trade. Then came the junta, which managed in a few short months to scare off foreign investors and alienate rural Thais by advocating quasi-Buddhist "efficiency economics" that emphasized stability over growth. Under the generals, Thailand grew by just 4.8 percent last year. ...
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