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9 Feb, 2014

Future is cloudy in Bangkok – former Indian Ambassador

It is uncertain if the February 2 election in Thailand will lead to a resolution of the ongoing political crisis. Certainly, it will not help address the deep contradictions that lie at the heart of the Thai system. Unless the Thai traditional and new political, social and business elites — and people at large — begin to reconcile their intersecting interests within the democratic and constitutional framework, the cycle of instability will not end. This is unlikely to happen anytime soon for, beyond the Thailand of beaches, a vibrant nightlife and tourism, lies an enormously complex country.

The present round of political difficulties are part of the continuing struggle between the established Bangkok classes and new money that began around 15 years ago, when current Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, formed the Thai Rak Thai (TRT) party in 1998 and led it to success in the January 2001 general elections. Thaksin, once a police officer, became a billionaire through concessions in satellite communications and mobile telephony. He joined politics and held a series of ministerial positions in the 1990s. Thaksin mobilised the poor rural communities of the country’s populous northeast and northern regions through welfare measures, which included the grant of education loans, microfinance for livelihoods and access to healthcare for the poor. Thaksin also became popular with the new business classes by advocating policies that promised openings to them.

Read the rest: Cloudy in Bangkok | The Indian Express.