Reuters blog archive
By John Foley
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own
The Thaksins' surprise win in the Thailand elections already has investors' vote. As the opposition party of Yingluck Shinawatra -- sister of exiled former premier Thaksin Shinawatra -- took a surprise majority in elections on July 3, the baht strengthened, and the cost of insuring Thailand's debt against default fell some 20 percent. The local stock market benchmark index rose 4.1 percent. In truth, there is some way to go before Thailand attains enough stability to regain favour with global investors -- but it's a good start.
Thailand doesn't need a political about-turn. The deposed Democrat Party shepherded the Thai economy prudently. Even a bout of bloody violence between the red shirts, who back Thaksin, and the yellow shirts who favour the royal establishment and Democrats, failed to knock the country off its course towards 8 percent GDP growth in 2010. That's largely because both sides respected the importance of strong banks, moderate leverage and fiscal prudence, and ensured that a downturn did not turn into an economic crisis. A dependence on exports, equivalent to around three-quarters of GDP, has helped separate growth from politics too.
But instability has brought a cost. Investors haven't piled into Thailand in the way they have neighbours like Indonesia and Malaysia. For Morgan Stanley, the country is its biggest "underweight" among emerging markets, partly because of an elevated sense of political risk. Around $1 billion of investment drained away in the month before the elections. Ongoing concerns that the victorious Puer Thai party might create discord by calling for an amnesty for Thaksin over corruption allegations -- or vengeance on those who supressed red shirt protests in 2010 -- could linger for months.
from Business Traveller:
Thailand goes to the polls on July 3 and no one can predict the precise outcome of the country’s divisive political battle. How carefully should business travellers tread, pre- and post-election?
Since populist former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra was deposed in a military coup in September 2006, the world has watched Thailand and its capital Bangkok – a long-stable travel and business hub – grapple with political and civil conflict.
from Global News Journal:
It was 2 a.m. on a Friday morning and we were stuck in the Reuters office on the 35th floor of the U Chu Liang Building. Thai anti-government protesters had begun rioting after their military strategist, a flamboyant major-general known as "Commander Red" was shot in the head as he was being interviewed by the New York Times at the "red shirt" protest encampment that occupies a huge chunk of expensive real estate in the Thai capital.
The protesters had swarmed into our parking lot, troops hot on their heels. One red shirt was shot dead, taking a bullet through his eye, outside our office. Our managers had ordered us to evacuate, but we had to wait until the violence died down outside. I strapped on a 10 kg flak jacket and helmet emblazoned with "press stickers", took a ride down the cargo elevator in a building under emergency power, and stepped carefully into the parking lot, looking around to see if it was safe for the remaining people in the newsroom to leave. It was quiet, as I crept around the parking lot, dodging from car to car, feeling slightly ridiculous. A taxi was parked just outside. I was beginning to understand what gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson meant when he said in his book Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro."
from Global News Journal:
Punchai is arranging strings of flowers under the imposing statue of King Rama VI at the entrance of Lumphini Park in Bangkok. The statue overlooks one end of the sprawling "red shirt" encampment that occupies a 3 square-km area of downtown Bangkok.
An altar has been set up at the base of the statue of a king who ruled from 1910 to 1925 and is generally credited with paving the way for democractic reforms in the kingdom. He is also the creator of Lumphini Park.
from Russell Boyce:
With the same ghoulish intrigue that children pull the wings off a fly, the legs off spiders or as motorists slow to look at a scene of a bad accident, I waited to see the pictures from last night's demonstration in Thailand. The "red shirt" wearing supporters of ousted Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra promised the world the sight of a million cubic centimetres of blood being drawn from the arms of his supporters and then thrown over Government House to demand that Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva call an immediate election. A million is a bold figure that I tried to picture; a thousand cubic centimetres, one litre, so one thousand litre cartons of milk. A more compact notion of the volume would be to visualise a cubic metre of blood; or in more practical terms in the UK the average bath size is 140 litres, so that is just over seven baths filled with blood.
A supporter of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra donates blood during a gathering in Bangkok March 16, 2010. Anti-government protesters will collect one million cubic centimetres of blood to pour outside the Government House in Bangkok, in a symbolic move to denounce the government as part of their demonstration to call for fresh elections. REUTERS/Sukree Sukplang