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Thai PM Sets Priorities For New Government

Supporters of Pheu Thai party cheer outside the parliament while Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra delivers the government's policy speech at the parliament in Bangkok, Thailand, Aug. 23, 2011.

Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has outlined the policy priorities for her new government in a major speech before parliament.

But Ms. Yingluck’s address was overshadowed by her elder brother, deposed leader Thaksin Shinawatra, who spoke about his own future plans during a news conference in Japan.

Thai PM Sets Priorities For New Government
Thai PM Sets Priorities For New Government

In her first address before parliament, Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra said the priorities for her administration will be reconciliation, economic development and crackdowns on narcotics and corruption.

She promised an increase in the minimum wage, a boost for university graduate salaries and higher prices for rice farmers.

Narong Phetprasert, vice dean of the faculty of economics at Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University, says the policy address was fair, but it fell short on out solutions to Thailand’s underlying economic and social problems.

“She does not understand the policy of the [Pheu Thai] Party in the real terms. It means that she sometimes she doesn’t understand what is the meaning of the policy because she is not the one who wrote the policy," he said. "If the policy is the way to solve the problem, we need to identify what is the main problem of our country.”

Tuesday’s address was considered a milestone for Ms. Yingluck’s Pheu Thai Party, but its impact was overshadowed by a new controversy involving her brother, Thaksin Shinawatra.

Thai PM Sets Priorities For New Government
Thai PM Sets Priorities For New Government

The former prime minister was deposed in a 2006 coup and remains in self-exile to avoid a two-year jail sentence for abuse of power.

Mr. Thaksin told reporters Tuesday that his sister’s policies will take time to take effect. He also said he is not planning to return to Thailand anytime soon.

"My plan going back to Thailand, I have no plan. You know whenever reconciliation happens, then that might be. But if reconciliation is not there, I don't want to fuel any more conflict. I just want to be part of the solution, not part of the problem," Thaksin said.

Media reports in Thailand and political observers in Bangkok have suggested that Mr. Thaksin is interested in returning to Thailand, possibly as early as November to attend his daughter’s wedding.

But the former prime minister is already sparking a political rift in parliament, where his opponents are accusing the foreign minister of illegally lobbying Japan to grant him a visa for this trip.

Rules normally prevent granting visas to fugitives, but officials say Thai and Japanese diplomats discussed granting him a visa, allowing his visit to go forward. Democrat Party leaders say the new foreign minister, a Thaksin ally, was responsible and have asked the election commission to remove him from his post.

In turn, the ruling Pheu Thai party is demanding the election commission dissolve the Democrat Party because of false accusations.

The dispute demonstrates that Mr. Thaksin remains a polarizing figure in Thai politics. Street demonstrations, sometimes deadly and violent, in recent years, have pitted Mr. Thaksin’s largely working class “Red Shirt” supporters and business allies against the military leaders, conservative elite and urban middle class.