Thaksin’s Return

With Thaksin’s return into the political fray via his high-profile podcast, there are plenty of interesting things being written about Thailand’s political situation.
Also see this week’s news magazines which all contrast the junta and Thaksin on their covers.

Thailand just can’t quit populism – Nikkei Asian Review, January 17, 2019

…The record of the fast-growth 1960s and 1970s, when Bangkok wooed automakers to morph Thailand into the “Detroit of Asia,” was forgotten. An opportunity to revive that dynamism was missed after the 1997 Asian crisis when leaders, even before Thaksin, opted for politically-targeted handouts over structural reform…
Now it is Prayuth’s turn to make the same mistakes. He plans to set aside $32 million to stabilize palm oil prices and to give 500 baht, or $15.70, handouts to 14.5 million Thais, mostly poor farmers. While hardly staggering amounts for a $483 billion economy, these moves smack of populism…

Shinawatras out, Lee Kuan Yew in: Asian leaders’ differing treatment by China’s ancestry tourism – SCMP, January 19, 2019

[The implication behind this, much rumored in Thailand, is that the junta has reached a deal with China for support and that China is convinced that a government in Thailand dominated by the military, not Thaksin, is the future of Thailand and good for its interests.]

…Five years ago, the siblings had a photo taken in front of the house with their oldest living relative, who state media reported was the wife of their mother’s cousin. Aged about 90, she still lives alone in the run-down abode, her neighbours said.
With its shattered windows, broken doors and stove, and a floor covered in leaves and chicken droppings, it is a world away from the affluent lives of Thaksin and Yingluck.
“When they visited last time, the local government did try to fix the house a bit, mend the walls and clean it,” said Li Dongling, who runs a pomelo business in the village.
“But they never came again. Sometimes I see the old lady and I feel sorry that she lives in such ruins – it looks like the house could collapse at any time,” said Li, who has lived in the village for over 20 years…

Thaksin, Prawit allies in undermining transparency – The Nation, January 12, 2019

[It has been a long time since there has been a tough editorial like this from the Nation of Bangkok Post.]

It would be inaccurate to class Thaksin Shinawatra and Prawit Wongsuwan as being of the same breed of politician, at least for now. The crucial difference between them is that no one has attempted to prosecute Prawit, the current defence minister and deputy premier, whereas Thaksin, the former prime minister, remains in self-imposed exile because democratic institutions wanted him punished…
They both diverted the drive for integrity and arrogantly used the scoundrel’s rallying cry of “conspiracy” to denigrate their critics. It was no small irony to hear Prawit say repeatedly that if Thaksin truly wished to honour his ambition of cleaning up politics, he should “return from hiding” and face the legal repercussions from the Ratchadapisek land case. Thaksin’s barbed response, in a tweet, was that a judicial system under Prawit’s purview could not be trusted…

Thai election: can Shinawatras keep it in the family, again? – SCMP, January 20, 2019

…“while Yingluck was a huge electoral asset who won support from voters and established good relations with the military and establishment, it’s unclear that Oak would be able to do any of this”.
Others say the party has little choice but to milk the political capital of the Shinawatra brand as the junta openly tries to push it out of Thai politics…

Interestingly, Reuters reported that “hundreds” recently demonstrated in Bangkok and that this shows growing tensions:
Rival groups demonstrate in Thailand as election tensions grow

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