CFR Presents

Asia Unbound

CFR experts give their take on the cutting-edge issues emerging in Asia today.

Posts by Category

Showing posts for "Yingluck Shinawatra"

Thailand’s Education System Continues to Decline

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Anti-government protesters clash with police near the Government house in Bangkok November 24, 2012. Anti-government protesters clash with police near the Government house in Bangkok November 24, 2012 (Damir Sagolj/Courtesy Reuters).

Amidst all the chaos in Bangkok over the Pitak Siam rally —a group of monarchists opposed to the Yingluck government who were supposed to bring hundreds of thousands of supporters into the streets— another, similarly important piece of news about Thailand’s decline emerged. As it turns out, the Pitak Siam rally was mostly a bust. Only about 20,000 supporters actually turned out to rally sites in Bangkok, a far cry from the hundreds of thousands of people who came out in 2006 for anti-Thaksin rallies that ultimately helped precipitate the 2006 coup. Read more »

Obama Heads to Southeast Asia Amid Regional Tensions

by Joshua Kurlantzick
President Barack Obama waves at the door of Air Force One; The U.S. president will travel to Southeast Asia November 16-21, 2012. President Barack Obama waves at the door of Air Force One; The U.S. president will travel to Southeast Asia November 16-21, 2012 (Romeo Ranoco/Courtesy Reuters).

As President Barack Obama sets off this weekend for a historic trip to Southeast Asia, he arrives at a high point for himself —and a low point for the region. Obama, making his first trip since winning re-election at the polls, will be the first sitting American president to visit Myanmar. The country has undoubtedly embarked upon historic reforms, yet is also embroiled in brutal ethnic violence. Thailand, another stop on Obama’s trip, is bracing for what could be a hugely disruptive leadership succession fight. In Cambodia, he will attend the East Asia Summit, as well as the Summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), an organization in the throes of a crisis. Read more »

Southern Philippines Deal a Lesson for Southern Thailand?

by Joshua Kurlantzick
People leave the scene after a car bomb exploded in southern Thailand's Sai Buri district. People leave the scene after a car bomb exploded in southern Thailand's Sai Buri district (Surapan Boonthanom/Courtesy Reuters).

In the wake of the Philippines government announcing last weekend that Manila and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) had agreed upon a peace plan after fifteen years of negotiations and forty years of war, many Thai news outlets are wondering whether Manila could teach Bangkok a lesson in how to deal with the southern Thailand insurgency. The Nation today, in an editorial titled “A Lesson for Thailand from the Philippines,” offers that the Philippine agreement has many key points for Thai policymakers to learn from, a mantra echoed by several other Thai media outlets. Yet there are key differences between southern Thailand and southern Philippines that, at this point, will make it hard to apply many of Manila’s lessons to Thailand: Read more »

Thailand’s Flood Defenses to Fail Again?

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Thailand's prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra visits Sam Wa canal to check on the drainage system as the country prepares for rainy season in the suburb of Bangkok August 17, 2012. Thailand's prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra visits Sam Wa canal to check on the drainage system as the country prepares for rainy season in the suburb of Bangkok August 17, 2012 (Sukree Sukplang/Courtesy Reuters).

Last year, flooding in Thailand breached defenses across the country, ruining many of the industrial estates on the outskirts of Bangkok, bringing the capital to a halt, and resulting in billions of dollars in damage and decisions by several major electronics components manufacturers to either abandon Thailand operations or open new operations to build disc drives and other parts in countries safer from flooding. Last year’s flooding was also horrible for the public image of the government of Yingluck Shinawatra, which appeared to be slow to respond, as compared to the army, which utilized the flooding, and its rapid response, to somewhat rehabilitate its image in the minds of many Thais after the army’s killing of at least ninety protestors in the streets of Bangkok in spring 2010. Read more »

Thailand: Reconciliation Fails

by Joshua Kurlantzick
A member of Nation Associate Anti-Corruption Network (NACN) holds a placard during a rally outside the U.S. embassy in Bangkok August 10, 2012. A member of Nation Associate Anti-Corruption Network (NACN) holds a placard during a rally outside the U.S. embassy in Bangkok August 10, 2012 (Chaiwat Subprasom/Courtesy Reuters).

After some time on vacation, I have returned to find that Thai politics, which almost couldn’t get worse, actually has. Last month, Thitinan Pongsudhirak, in my opinion the most astute observer of Thai politics, captured the fundamental tension in Thailand today in an op-ed:

Thailand’s problem is that those who keep winning elections are not allowed to rule, whereas others who ultimately call the shots cannot win elections. [Thanks to Bangkok Pundit for pointing me to Thitinan’s op-ed]

 That, in a nutshell, is Thailand’s dilemma, one shared by many middle-income developing nations where middle classes are becoming increasingly skeptical of the benefits of democratization, as I discuss in my forthcoming book The Decline of Democracy (Yale University Press). Read more »

The Return of Banned Thai Politicians

by Joshua Kurlantzick
The return of many Puea Thai politicians will likely strengthen the government of Thailand's Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra (pictured). (Lukas Coch/Courtesy Reuters) The return of many Puea Thai politicians will likely strengthen the government of Thailand's Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra (pictured). (Lukas Coch/Courtesy Reuters)

Over the past year, since Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra was elected in July 2011, the balance of power has shifted precariously, back and forth, between the Thaksin/Red Shirt/ Puea Thai forces and the establishment pro-royalist forces, allied with the army. As Asia Times has written in several comprehensive pieces, the army, which cast serious dishonor upon itself with the killings in the streets of Bangkok in the spring of 2010, restored some of its positive image through effective relief work during the floods of 2010, at a time when the Yingluck government seemed to be flailing in handling the crisis. Read more »

Another Coup Looming in Thailand?

by Joshua Kurlantzick
An activist holds a cut-out mask of Amphon Tangnoppaku outside Bangkok Remand Prison. An activist holds a cut-out mask of Amphon Tangnoppaku outside Bangkok Remand Prison. (Sukree Sukplang/Courtesy Reuters)

Recent international media attention related to Thailand has been (quite reasonably) focused on the tragic story of Ampon Tangnoppakul, also known as “Ar Kong,” an elderly grandfather who had been sentenced to twenty years in prison for allegedly sending four text messages defaming the monarchy. This despite the fact that he had no previous political experience, and the state could not even prove he had actually sent the messages, but instead simply applied the standard that he could not disprove he sent them — obviously not a reasonable standard of proof in a democracy. Sick with cancer and other ailments, and separated from his entire family, Ampon died in jail earlier this week. Read more »

When Will Thaksin Return?

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra greets the media upon his arrival at the Siem Reap International Airport in Cambodia, April 14, 2012. Thailand's fugitive former premier Thaksin took some small but symbolic steps towards the fringes of his homeland on Wednesday after five years in exile. Former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra greets the media upon his arrival at the Siem Reap International Airport in Cambodia, April 14, 2012. Thailand's fugitive former premier Thaksin took some small but symbolic steps towards the fringes of his homeland on Wednesday after five years in exile. (Samrang Pring/Courtesy Reuters)

A spate of articles over the past week has highlighted the growing possibility that former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra will soon return to Thailand from exile. During a recent visit to Laos, just across the border from the Thai Northeast, Thaksin told supporters that he is going to return to Thailand within the next three or four months, in time for his birthday. As The Economist noted last week, his recent visit to Laos had all the trappings of a state visit, with high security, crowds of supporters, and the highest-level audiences with the Lao government. Thaksin has also increasingly dropped the façade that he is “retired” from politics, though he continues to insist that he is not interested in returning to the premiership. Read more »

Thailand’s Collapsing Peace: Part II

by Joshua Kurlantzick
The return of Suranand Vejjajiva is seen as a signal that Thaksin Shinawatra (above) is poised to return to Thailand. The return of Suranand Vejjajiva is seen as a signal that Thaksin Shinawatra (above) is poised to return to Thailand. (Samrang Pring/Courtesy Reuters)

The Nation (the Thailand version) has an article today noting that Suranand Vejjajiva, who was the Prime Minister’s Office Minister in previous Thaksin Shinawatra governments, has now begun playing a major role in the administration of the current prime minister, Thaksin’s sister Yingluck. Suranand was banned from engaging in politics for five years following the coup that deposed Thaksin; but, like many other prominent pro-Thaksin politicians, his ban is almost up, and he and others are expected to return to the political scene in full force soon. Read more »

Thailand’s Tentative Peace Is Collapsing

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Red shirt supporters wave flags as thousands of people gather outside the Grand Palace to celebrate the birthday of Thailand's King Bhumibol Adulyadej in Bangkok. Red shirt supporters wave flags as thousands of people gather outside the Grand Palace to celebrate the birthday of Thailand's King Bhumibol Adulyadej in Bangkok. (Damir Sagolj/Courtesy Reuters)

In a brief but informative piece in the Wall Street Journal recently, veteran correspondent James Hookaway notes that “a delicate détente between Thailand’s powerful armed forces and a populist government led by [Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra] … is looking increasingly fragile.”

Saying that the truce is “increasingly fragile” is like saying Homer Simpson enjoys donuts or Barney Frank is a difficult interview: Thailand could easily blow up again, soon. Read more »