Thursday, March 09, 2006

Restless in Thailand

Map of ThailandThe political unrest in Thailand over Thaksin Shinawatra's position as PM is growing worse by the day. Opposition parties claim than the Thai people want Thaksin to step down as premier. Of course, this will pave the way for one of its own to be the next PM.

Now, anybody linked to Thaksin is bad news. These include his erstwhile business partners and political supporters, which can be found among large corporations such as Nestle. Even Singapore companies, like Thai Danu Bank, owned by Singapore's DBS Bank are not spared as the Thai opposition drum up support to boycott these businesses. Singapore's Temasek Holdings, the company that bought a large swat of Shin Corp - the very transaction that precipitated this crisis - must be squirming in its seat. Its analyst who proposed this acquisition could never have expected the strength of emotion it has stirred up.

These are heady days in Bangkok. The Thai King is very upset. Businesses are being disrupted. The nation's economic productivity is sliding downhill as more and more people persist in being in the streets rather than being in the office. Slowly, but surely, the situation makes it more certain that the Thai military will step in to put a stop to all these nonsense.

As a neutral observer, I can't fault Thaksin's bid to restore order through the ballot box once more, but the opposition refuses to play this democratic game. They know that they cannot unseat Thaksin, but they forget that this is the only democratically valid way to remove him from power, if not today, then next year, if the reasons warrant it. Ironically, the mass demonstrations taking place incessantly is proving to be demo-cratic - it is the oppression of the few noisy ones against the many silent ones, quite the opposite from Philippines' People Power demonstrations last decade that toppled the dictator, Ferdinand Marcos.

It is sad to see that a country cannot resolve its political differences through the ballot box, but only through threats and boycotts of parties that provides employment to the Thai worker, no less. I wonder who these opposition political parties stand for? Certainly not the workers, not the farmers, not the poorer Thais in other parts of Thailand and certainly not their King. There is only one party they are interested in: themselves.

After the Asian Financial Crisis of 1997, Thailand had pulled itself back to becoming a dynamic and fast growing economy, challenging its Asean partners, particularly Malaysia and Singapore in many areas. Will this Thailand Political Crisis signal the end of its economic resurgence? One can only wait and see.