News / Asia

Analysts: Thai Political Parties Competing With Very Different Visions

Opposition leader of Phue Thai party, Yingluck Shinawatra, center, flashes a number one sign as she arrives for the registration of constituency candidates competing in upcoming general election in Bangkok, May 24, 2011.
Opposition leader of Phue Thai party, Yingluck Shinawatra, center, flashes a number one sign as she arrives for the registration of constituency candidates competing in upcoming general election in Bangkok, May 24, 2011.
Daniel Schearf

Thailand’s political parties are registering candidates this week for a July 3 nationwide election. The vote is expected to be tightly contested battle between the two leading parties: the Democrat Party and the opposition Pheu Thai Party. Political analysts say those parties are competing on two very different visions: continued rule by the country’s traditional elites or a return to the populist policies of ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

This time last year in Thailand, the country was gripped by violent clashes in central Bangkok between security forces and opposition protesters calling for the dissolution of parliament.

A year later, with a new election just weeks away, the leading candidates of the two main parties are staying away from divisive rhetoric as they rally their supporters in the race to fill 375 parliament seats.

The two main parties are the ruling Democrats of now caretaker Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and the opposition Pheu Thai party led by Yingluck Shinawatra, the younger sister of ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva spoke to reporters Tuesday after leading Democrat candidates to register for the election.

Abhisit said he chose qualified applicants to serve the people and not only in Bangkok. Abhisit added that party leaders travel to other provinces and give moral support to applicants there who vow to serve the country to move forward.

The opposition Pheu Thai party's number one candidate, Yingluck Shinawatra, is also striking an inclusive tone in her public appearances.

Yingluck said today the party sent applicants for all 33 constituencies and opinion polls show they are gaining more support. Yingluck noted the Pheu Thai Party and all of their applicants are ready to present policies to serve all the people.

Despite the inclusive rhetoric, Thai political analysts say both leaders are backed by powerful interests that have divided the country in recent years and appear no closer to reaching a compromise.

Pavin Chachavalpongpun is a Thai politics observer at Singapore’s Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. He says the vote is basically a contest between traditional elites in Bangkok and supporters of Thaksin in the rural north.

"We are looking at a head on collision between two power blocks," said Pavin.  "On one side led by the Democrat party, which represents the old interests, you know, of the palace, the military, the big businesses, and also, you know, the senior bureaucrats. Whereas Yingluck, she has emerged as a representative of the Thai poor, especially those in the north and the northeast region who have all these years been ignored by the traditional elite."

Critics say Yingluck, a wealthy business executive, will be used as merely a front for her brother to return to power.

Thaksin Shinawatra is a billionaire telecoms tycoon who won over the countryside through populist policies that brought money and development projects to the rural poor.

His detractors say he was corrupt, authoritarian, and undermined the revered monarchy, which he denies.

Although he was twice popularly elected, political analysts say Thaksin was seen as a threat to traditional powers in Bangkok.

He was ousted by the military in a 2006 coup and fled into exile to avoid jail time for corruption charges.

Thitinan Pongsudhirak is director of the Institute of Security and International Studies at Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University. He says there is no doubt Yingluck is a stand-in for Mr. Thaksin who has been actively leading Pheu Thai from exile.

"It's not camouflaged in any way," Thitinan noted.  "In 2007, 2008 we had a Thaksin proxy government. But, it was more indirect; Samak Sundaravej, the prime minister in early 2008, and then Somchai Wongsawat, Thaksin's brother-in-law. In this case, Thaksin wanted to be known that Pheu Thai is his party, Yingluck Shinawatra is his younger sister and his representative."

Those successive governments loyal to Thaksin were removed by controversial court orders. Their parties were dissolved and their politicians were banned from politics for five years.

Abhisit’s Democrats then rose to power, sparking demonstrations by Thaksin’s Red Shirt supporters who say their vote was stolen by Bangkok elites.

Tens of thousands of Red Shirts took over large parts of Bangkok last year demanding a new election and fair treatment for their leaders.

When negotiations broke down, Abhisit ordered the military to clear the protesters by force resulting in more than 90 deaths, most of them civilians.

Pavin says Yingluck is as much a proxy of her brother as the Oxford-educated Abhisit is a proxy of the establishment.

"Because the way he has come to power, because of the help of the military, and because of that I think he owes many people, especially his backers in the army and also in the elite circles - because of that, I think it has constrained him to become more independent or autonomous," Pavin noted.

Pavin says despite the turmoil Abhisit has managed to steer the country’s economy in the right direction.

As for his opponent, even though she comes from a politically savvy and business oriented family, it is less clear if Yingluck can do the same.

Chris Baker, an author on Thai politics, says it would be extremely historic if Yingluck is elected as Thailand’s first female prime minister. He says at any time in history a maximum of only about 15 percent of Thai lawmakers were female.

"And, you find the same kind of proportion running through all aspects of politics whether it's local councilors or even political journalists, you know, there's a very strong identification of politics with masculinity," Baker explained.  "And so, it's quite a barrier for anyone to get over."

Yingluck’s Pheu Thai party has pledged that if it wins the election, it will issue an amnesty for all charged in relation to the 2006 coup, which could pave the way for Thaksin to return to Thailand.

Many political analysts doubt Abhisit’s backers would allow a party aligned with Thaksin to take power, let alone engineer his return.

Provincial-level political violence has already been reported and many worry that, whichever side wins, post-election turmoil is likely.

You May Like

US Investors Eye IPO for China's Alibaba

E-commerce giant handled 80 percent of China's online business last year, logging more Internet transactions than US-based Amazon.com and eBay combined More

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

As cease-fire begins, Palestinians celebrate in streets; Israelis remain wary More

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

In treatment of a 12-year-old boy Chinese doctors used a 3-D printer and special software to create an exact replica of vertebra More

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.
Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implanti
X
August 27, 2014 4:53 PM
A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

Israel and the Gaza Strip have been calm since a cease-fire set in Tuesday evening, ending seven weeks of hostilities. Hamas, which controls Gaza, declared victory. Israelis were more wart. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. VOA News reports from Kolkata.
Video

Video Northern California Quake: No Way to Know When Next One Will Hit

A magnitude 6.0 earthquake rocked northern California’s Napa Valley on Sunday. Roads twisted and water mains burst. It was the wine country’s most severe quake in 15 years, and while hospitals treated many people, no one was killed. Arash Arabasadi has more from Washington on what the future may hold for those residents living on a fault line.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ukraine: Captured Troops Proof of Russian Role in Separatist Fight

Ukrainian officials say they have captured Russian soldiers on Ukrainian territory -- the latest accusation of Moscow's involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the Ukrainian side of the battle, where soldiers are convinced of Russia's role.
Video

Video Rubber May Soon Come From Dandelions

Synthetic rubber has been around for more than a century, but quality tires for cars, trucks and aircraft still need up to 40 percent or more natural rubber content. As the source of natural rubber, the rubber tree, is prone to disease and can be affected by bad weather. So scientists are looking for replacements. And as VOA’s George Putic reports, they may have found one in a ubiquitous weed.
Video

Video Jewish Life in Argentina Reflected in Yiddish Tango

Jewish people from across Europe and Russia have been immigrating to Argentina for hundreds of years. They brought with them dance music that were eventually mixed with Argentine tango. The result is Yiddish tango -- a fusion of melodies and cultural experiences that is still evolving today. Elizabeth Lee reports from the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles, where one band is bringing Yiddish tango to an American audience.

AppleAndroid