Embittered former prime minister is hell bent on revenge despite the economic crisis
The government of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva easily survived the censure debate over the weekend but the real political threat against the administration will come later this week. The red shirt anti-government protesters’ planned rally on March 26 is expected to be the biggest ever, underlined by the increasingly restlessness of Thaksin Shinawatra. This is his last hope, and the fugitive former prime minister will likely throw everything he’s got at his opponents.
The frequency of Thaksin’s video links and his increasingly controversial allegations against his opponents suggest the political movement outside the House will be intensified. All the political indicators had told us that it would come to this point; it’s just so unfortunate and disappointing that Thailand’s political rivals are heading for another head-on collision at the most economically fragile time.
Lingering domestic political instability is likely to worsen the economic distress that has resulted from the global recession. The Abhisit government has pledged to go back to work to restore the economy after the government won the no-confidence vote, but the prime minister must have known that the censure debate last week was just a side show. A more powerful force is outside the Parliament building.
The red-shirt protesters, including some members of the opposition Pheu Thai Party, have already announced they plan to block the Government House on the evenings of March 25 to 26 in an attempt to oust Abhisit. Thaksin plans to transmit a video link to the Government House to add to the political pressure.
Thaksin’s claim during his Sunday phone-in that two privy councillors led the movement to topple him in 2006 has already raised interest about what he will say to his supporters on March 26. This is despite the fact that General Panlop Pinmanee, who is claimed by Thaksin to have been aware of this scheme, has already come out to deny any knowledge of this alleged malicious plot. Judging from his tone and the content of his messages, Thaksin is now hell bent on shaking the domestic political scene from outside Thailand.
And he will be doing so against a very poor economic backdrop. Finance Minister Korn Chatikavanij yesterday said that the Thai economy this year was likely to contract by up to 3 per cent. The Finance Ministry estimated the damage caused to the global financial system would be as much as US$2.2 trillion, which is double the earlier estimates.
The Abhisit government is working out the second round of the economic stimulus package worth Bt1.4 trillion, which is aimed at promoting the infrastructure investment within three years. Meanwhile, the government also plans to secure foreign funding worth Bt70 billion to help cure the economic problems at home.
Meanwhile, the drop in consumer consumption in the US, the European Union and Japan has resulted in a drastic drop in Thai exports, which have been the engine for the country’s economic growth for decades. The private sector’s biggest concern this year will be rising unemployment. An additional 1 million people are likely to lose their jobs this year. The big public turnout at the government’s massive job training programme over the weekend reflects the huge number of unemployed people waiting for an opportunity to get back into the labour market through the re-training programme.
Thailand, as things stand, will have to cope with severe external and domestic economic troubles. At the same time, feuding politicians continue to risk undermining their own country during this very tough time. While the Pheu Thai Party did admirably well in taking the government to task on several fronts, outside Parliament, water bottles and eggs have been thrown at government politicians. The political scene remains highly unpredictable because Thaksin obviously believes that an upheaval is the only way for him regain political leverage.
Thaksin is getting more and more desperate, and this is shown in his statements. The public feel it as well, as recent polls showed a noticeable drop in his popularity in the wake of his latest allegations made through the phone-ins and video-links.
Against this backdrop, both sides of the political conflict should bear in mind the realistic picture of what the national priority is. The innuendoes made by Thaksin or other politicians outside the House, trying to discredit certain institutions, are worrisome because they will not only further smear Thailand’s image but also weaken any effort to rebuild national harmony and political peace.
All politicians claim they love Thailand, but actions speak much louder than words. This is a time when anyone who claims he or she values the interests of the country over their own, should rethink their priorities and conduct themselves in a way that doesn’t mock their own words.
By The Nation
Published on March 24, 2009
Private Sector Criticizes Thaksin’s Phone-in
The private sector has criticised the live phone-ins by former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra as they believe they will undermine Thailand’s economy as well as politics.
The newly-appointed Chairman of Thailand’s Board of Trade, Dusit Nontanakorn , criticised the live phone calls made by exiled former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.
Dusit stated that the calls have no benefit to the nation but can stir up a political rift and damage the economy. He said all countries are trying to reduce the impact of the global financial turmoil, so Thaksin should stop the calls if he loves the nation.
The Board of Trade chairman revealed that he will organise a meeting with the agency’s members in a couple of weeks to brainstorm economic stimulus schemes before proposing them to Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva by May.
Meanwhile, Thailand’s Board of Trade former chairman, Pramon Sutivong , said the private sector wants the country to be at peace and that no one will benefit from ongoing political protests.
Pramon added that he is satisfied with the government’s performance over the past three months as many suggestions made by the private sector have received a positive response from the Cabinet.
Board of Trade Honorary Chairman Ajva Taulananda is concerned that Thaksin’s phone-ins will destroy unity among the public and worsen the ongoing problems with the economy and politics.
Ajva said the Democrat-led government is performing its administrative duty in the right way, particularly with the injection of cash into the country’s rural sector, which is likely to help improve the sagging economy within the next few months.
Regarding the three-year economic stimulus scheme, he asked the government to focus on irrigation and logistic systems in order to improve the production efficiency of the agricultural sector in the long run.
Thai Asain News Network, Business News