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A bitter fight – political turmoil, social rift could affect economy

Updated On: Feb 24, 2006

Calls for Thaksin’s resignation are growing louder by the day. But Thaksin looks set to fight back. 

After Chamlong withdrew his support from his former protégé, former PM Suchinda Kraprayoon, has now advised Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra to learn from his experience and dissolve the House to return power to the people. Suchinda had formerly ignored pro-democratic calls for reform which eventually led to bloodshed and the end of his regime. ''I've gone through it. Any action taken is deemed to be intimidation of the people,'' he said. Suchinda said dissolving the House was the best way because Thaksin could return to power if the public still supported him.

This displeases Chamlong and his supporters who view Thaksin as the problem. ''Dissolving the House isn't a solution because the problem lies with the prime minister,'' said Chamlong, who led the rally in May 1992, bringing down Suchinda.

Thaksin has fended off these attacks by planning a special joint parliamentary session in March “to allow the opposition to ‘grill’ the government, including Mr Thaksin himself. “The MPs and senators can question whatever issues they feel like and there will be ample time for debate,” said government spokesman Surapong Suebwonglee.

However critics are unappeased. Opposition leader Abhisit Vejjajiva reportedly said the move was a meant “to distract public attention”. “The general debate will not reduce the political heat because the public has lost faith in many MPs and senators,” said Wutthisak Larpcharoensap, dean of political science atRamkhamhaeng University. Nakarin Mektrairat, dean of political science at Thammasat University, said a debate in parliament would help defuse the tension only if the government allowed the opposition a ''full and uninterrupted'' debate. Mr Nakarin believes the prime minister has lost his legitimacy to carry on his job. “It is only a matter of time when the government will collapse.”

The Nation has commented that “this polarisation of Thai politics – with the urban-based middle class pitted against the rural poor whom Thaksin continues to count among his most loyal supporters – is a dangerous trend that has the potential to erupt into violence.”

Although the Thaksin government has insisted that it is fully capable of maintaining economic growth, political watchers have noted that Thailand’s political troubles are starting to have a negative effect on the country’s economy. The stock market has already been affected –investors are wary about political turmoil. Although Thai economic fundamentals “remain sound with relatively low foreign debt, an ample current-account surplus and non-performing loans around 10 per cent of all outstanding loans, these are highly susceptible to sudden or incremental changes in other key economic indicators, such as consumer confidence.”  The economy may suffer from a drop in private-sector spending, which would affect public-sector investment in infrastructure mega-projects. It would be harder then for the government to implement policies to help the rural poor.

Sources:

Suchinda urges House dissolution Bangkok Post, 23 February 2006

A premier defiant and determined Bangkok Post, 23 February 2006

PM should dissolve House, call elections, Bangkok Post, 23 February 2006

Alien leadership style at root of Thai woes, Straits Times, 23 February 2006

Four TRT members urge their leader to resign, The Nation, 22 February 2006

Govt’s self-serving act of ‘kindness’, The Nation, 22 February 2006

PM: No-confidence pledge just a ‘bluff’, The Nation, 22 February 2006

 ‘Time for Thaksin to exit politics forever’, The Nation, 22 February 2006

Turmoil weighs on the economy, The Nation, 22 February 2006

PM's pledge 'not unconditional', Bangkok Post, 22 February 2006

Chamlong: We'll carry on till PM quits, Bangkok Post, 22 February 2006

Thaksin sets rules for political brawl, Bangkok Post, 22 February 2006

PM should step down gracefully, Bangkok Post, 22 February 2006