Approaching the midpoint of the current four-year parliamentary term, political conditions in Thailand remain generally calm. However, the recent gubernatorial election in the capital, at which the incumbent, a member of the opposition DP, only narrowly fended off a challenge from the candidate of the governing PTP, highlights the persistence of deep political divisions. If not handled with care, this could give rise to a repeat of the destabilizing protests that erupted in 2010.

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has been careful to maintain an arm’s length relationship with her very controversial brother, exiled former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. His presumed obsession with regaining political power in Thailand is a driving force behind the chronic political upheaval that troubled the country between 2006 and 2011.

Nevertheless, as Thaksin’s opponents in the royal court and among the military assume that the exiled leader is calling the shots from behind the scenes, any moves by Yingluck that might be interpreted as facilitating Thaksin’s return would create a threat of renewed unrest and her government’s premature fall from power.

Thaksin’s opponents in the royal court and among the military assume that the exiled leader is calling the shots.

In the immediate near term, the government will need to proceed carefully on the issue of rice subsidies, which are contributing to serious market inefficiencies even as they consume fiscal resources. A suggestion that the government was considering a 13.3 percent reduction in the price it pays for rice was quickly retracted, amid threats of protests by rice farmers, but the issue cannot be ignored indefinitely.

Efforts to end a long-running armed campaign to win greater autonomy for the majority Muslim southern provinces received a recent boost in the form of the government’s agreement to talks with several of the armed factions. However, the fragmented structure of the insurgency poses an obstacle to achieving a general truce. And suggestions that the Malaysian government helped to broker the talks at the request of Thaksin ensures that the military will view any progress produced by negotiations with skepticism.


The PRS Group
About The Author The PRS Group
The PRS Group is a leading global provider of political and country risk analysis and forecasts, covering 140 countries. Based on proprietary, quantitative risk models, the firm's clientele includes financial institutions, multilateral agencies, and trans-national firms.

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