News

    Thailand's PM Gains Support After Handling Tsunami Devastation

    Multimedia

    Audio
    The tsunami that caused death and destruction in southern Thailand last month also pushed aside political debate in the run-up to the February 6 national elections. Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra's forceful handling of the disaster has boosted his party's chances at the ballot box.

    When the tsunami slammed into the beaches of southern Thailand in late December, Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra was quick to travel to the island of Phuket to direct the relief operation. He pressed security and rescue officials to speed up efforts to locate the thousands of people who had died or disappeared.

    Thai television viewers, gripped by the tragedy's dramatic events, saw their prime minister, a wealthy business tycoon before turning to politics, exercising his management style.

    Bob Broadfoot, managing director of the Political and Economic Risk Consultancy in Hong Kong, and says Mr. Thaksin's efforts appear to have been effective. "He's done a fairly good job of mobilizing the relief - assigning specific assignments to ministers so they are able to focus on functions without tripping over each other's toes," said Mr. Broadfoot.

    The result, many analysts say, is that Mr. Thaksin may have significantly boosted his Thai Rak Thai party's prospects in the country's February 6 election. The prime minister came to power four years ago.

    Analysts say the prime minister and his party had been losing support before the disaster struck. But Somjai Phagaphasvivat, who teaches political science at Thammasat University, says the sight of Mr. Thaksin taking charge changed public perceptions.

    "All of a sudden with the tsunami event, the popularity of the Thai Rak Thai and also of the premier has been on the rise again," he said. "Premier Thaksin capitalized on the situation, turning what we call the disaster into the opportunity by showing decisiveness."

    Mr. Broadfoot says the prime minister's performance also changed his image among political analysts around the region. "For a long time now we've been so critical of his playing a CEO-style leadership," he added. "But when it came to dealing with this crisis, that was the kind of leadership Thailand needed."

    Mr. Thaksin had been facing criticism for his handling of Muslim separatist violence in the southern provinces and the bird flu outbreak last year, and also for what many in the middle class consider his autocratic style of leadership.

    There are concerns that the disaster has cut off political debate. Newspapers and television programs that would normally have been filled with election commentary are instead reporting on the tragedy.

    Even though Thai Rak Thai's popularity had weakened before the disaster, it still was the favorite to win the election. Mr. Broadfoot says the prime minister's enhanced image means that victory is now all but assured. "He's going to get that vote on the basis of what's happened - on the basis of how he's rallied the country for the disaster," he said. "He's going to score a really big victory in this election - I don't think there's any doubt there."

    The business newspaper Krungthep Thurakit has forecast that Thai Rak Thai will capture 314 seats in the 500-member parliament.
    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clownsi
    X
    February 09, 2016 8:04 PM
    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clowns

    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Rocky Year Ahead for Nigeria Amid Oil Price Crash

    The global fall in the price of oil has rattled the economies of many petroleum exporters, and Africa’s oil king Nigeria is no exception. As Chris Stein reports from Lagos, analysts are predicting a rough year ahead for the continent’s top producer of crude.
    Video

    Video Foreign Policy Weighs Heavy for Some US Voters

    VOA talks to protesters in Manchester, New Hampshire who sound off on foreign policy issues such as the Guantanamo Bay Prison, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Middle East Affairs and national security.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video New Hampshire Voters Are Independent, Mindful of History

    Once every four years, the northeastern state of New Hampshire becomes the center of the U.S. political universe with its first-in-the-nation presidential primary. What's unusual about New Hampshire is how seriously the voters take their role and the responsibility of being among the first to weigh in on the candidates.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Bhutanese Refugees in New Hampshire Closely Watching Primary Election

    They fled their country and lived in refugee camps in neighboring Nepal for decades before being resettled in the northeastern U.S. state of New Hampshire -- now the focus of the U.S. presidential contest. VOA correspondent Aru Pande spoke with members of the Bhutanese community, including new American citizens, about the campaign and the strong anti-immigrant rhetoric of some of the candidates.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.