Thailand will hold an election on Sunday, and Yingluck Shinawatra, the leader of the Puea Thai (“For Thais”) party has been gaining in the polls. The question on everyone’s mind in Bangkok these days is this: If Puea Thai decisively wins the election, and Yingluck becomes Prime Minister, will the army stage a coup?
Yingluck Shinawatra, 44, is poised to become Thailand’s first female PM (AP)
Yingluck is the sister of Thaksin Shinawatra. Thaksin or his allies have won every Thai election in the past decade. Thaksin won landslide victories in 2001 and 2005, but was ousted in 2006 by a coup. Each time that an ally became Prime Minister, opposition leaders have found a way to force the winner from office, in one case because he had been the host of a televised cooking show. ( “Thailand government collapses, ending crippling riots from class war”)
It’s widely believed that the army hates Thaksin, and the problem appears to be what a Reuters analysis describes as “Thaksinomics.”
Thaksinomics is basically a spending program that pumps billions of dollars into Thailand’s rural economy, theoretically to stimulate consumption and create a Keynesian multiplier effect, according to the article. But critics say that it’s simply pork-barrel politics, and that its promised results are unproven. Furthermore, the critics point out that household debt as a percentage of income is above 57%, but was below 50% in 2001.
There’s plenty of racism involved. The “rural economy” refers to mostly to the the dark-skinned indigenous Thai-Thai majority laboring class, for whom Thaksin is a hero, and the spending is opposed by the élite fair-skinned market dominant minority Thai-Chinese class. ( “26-May-11 News — Thailand election portends more ethnic clashes”)
The Royal Thai Army claims that it is neutral
The Royal Thai Army is widely believed to be taking sides and trying to discredit Puea Thai. The Commander-in-Chief Prayuth Chan-ocha has occasionally made veiled threats of an army coup if Yingluck wins. However, on Thursday, Thailand’s army chief sought to allay fears of a coup d’état, according to Reuters. He said that the military’s stance on the election was strictly neutral, but that he would protect 83-year-old King Bhumibol Adulyadej from anyone showing disrepect to him, which is against the law.
According to a BBC profile, has two degrees in politics – undergraduate from the northern city of Chiang Mai, her family’s powerbase, and masters from Kentucky State University in the US. Until now, she has pursued a corporate career, with little experience in politics.
But she says she will use her attributes as a woman to promote national reconciliation:
I am ready to fight according to the rules and I ask for the opportunity to prove myself. I ask for your trust as you used to trust my brother. I will utilise my femininity to work fully for our country.”
I can hardly wait to see how that works out.