Saturday, September 10, 2011

Professor Kriengsak Chareonwongsak The Thai Election 2011 TV show produced by Asean Affairs


Panel members (L-R) Mr. Seth Kane, Visiting Research Fellow The Institute of Security and International Studies (ISIS), Chulalongkorn University, Professor Kriengsak Chareonwongsak, President, Institute of Future Studies For Development, M.L. Nattakorn Devakula, Host, DailyDose, VoiceTV, News Analyst, TNN World News, TrueVisions 7 , Khun Pichai Naripthaphan, Advisor to Puea Thai Party leader and Member of the Economic Team of Puea Thai Party, Mr. S. Roy, Founder & Chairman of AseanAffairs, Khun Anik Amranand, Representative, Democrat Party, Member of advisory council, Former Member of Parliament, Mr. Yeap Swee Chuan, President & CEO, AAPICO Hitech Public Co., Ltd and President Malaysia Thai Chamber of Commerce, Khun Voranai Vanijaka, Political & Social Commentator, Bangkok Post Publishing Co.,Ltd., Mr Michal Zitek, General Manager, The Imperial Queen's Park Hotel, Khun Thanarith (Cod) Satrusayang, CEO, Codspeak Productions Ltd.

The Thai Election 2011 TV show produced by Asean Affairs on Friday, June 24, attracted widespread international media attention. Covering the panel discussion were: Astro Awani TV channel of Malaysia, Yunnan TV of China, Capital Television Thailand and Channel News Asia. In the audience were reporters from Reuters, French media, Le Petit Journal and local media, Bangkok Post and The Nation, Bangkok Today and Naewna newspapers.

Participating in the panel, moderated by Swarup, Roy, founder and CEO of Asean Affairs, were spokespersons for the two major parties contesting the election, Anik Amranand for the Democrat party and Pichai Naripthaphan, adviser to the Pheu Thai party. Analysts and experts of the Thai political scene also appearing were: Nattakorn Devakula, Professor Dr. Kriengsak Chareonwongsak, Yeap Swee Chuan, Voronai Vanijaka, Seth Kane and Thanrith Satrusayang.The first issue asked which of the two political parties would be able to bring reconciliation to Thailand, which has experienced a sharp political division since the 2006 coup. The division pits the red shirt supporters of fugitive former prime MinisterThaksin Shinawatra and the Pheu Thai party and supporters of the incumbent Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and the Democrat party.Mr. Pichai expressed the view that Thailand’s democracy” had fallen down in every respect in the last five years” as the situation that “people don’t accept the election results, has become chronic.” He also compared the red shirts to the recent protesters in various Mideast countries.Ms. Anik also laid the blame for the current division in Thailand on the inability of the red shirts and their backer, Mr. Thaksin, to accept the rule of law. She said it was also ironic that the “fight of the poor” was led by the country’s “richest person” (Mr. Thaksin) and that the “Democrats could accept defeat” at the coming polls.Mr. Nattakorn added that reconciliation in the country was not needed if the losing side of the election simply accepted defeat in the coming polls, but in recent elections that has not happened. Dr. Kriengsak thinks that the outcome of the July 3 election will not bring a “future of peace” because the two sides are “unwilling to talk” with each other. In this case he asked, “How can there be peace?” He observed that he anticipated turmoil after the election with charges of fraud, the disqualification of winning candidates by the Election Commission and even challenges to the way the ballots have been printed. At the moment he is heavy-hearted about this impending turmoil and hopes that “somehow through negotiations” the prospective turmoil can be ended.Longtime auto executive, Mr. Yeap, voiced an optimistic note when he said that in his more than 20 years in Thailand, “problems settle by themselves.”Turning to the economic issues in the campaign, the issue presented was that there has historically been a “firewall” insulating Thai business operations from the country’s political turmoil and can this be expected to continue. Most panelists suggested this would continue but with some reservations. Mr. Pichai outlined the Pheu Thai party’s economic plans. He said there would be an investment in logistics and the creation of a new “green city” outside of Bangkok, the issuance of credit cards to farmers to enable them to buy their supplies, a reduction of corporate taxes and a fund for new graduates to start SMEs and a countrywide increase in the minimum wage to 300 baht ($US10) per day.On the Democrat side, Ms. Anik, noted that the ruling Democrat party’s policies had guided Thailand through the recent global economic crisis quickly and that figures for exports and tourism had reached “all-time” highs. Future plans included increasing Thailand’s minimum wage by 25 percent over a two-year period, support fees for farmers, noting that farm income had risen 18 percent under the Democrats, tackling inflation at the household level, continued support of the auto and electronics industries and the launch of “branding” programs such as “The Kitchen of the World, The Gateway to Asean and The Rhythm of Asean.”Mr. Yeap noted an optimistic future for Thailand’s auto industry. The industry is expected to produce 2 million vehicles this year and 2.5 million in 2012. It is foremost a producer of pickup trucks and has also produced eco-cars under Japanese brand names that are superior to the same models produced in Japan. He observed that Thai auto manufacturers now provide a free lunch and dinner to its workers as well as substantial bonuses, but the question of “how to make people satisfied” still remains. Mr. Yeap said “it was time to take the workforce to the next level” to end dissatisfaction, strikes and he hopes for a “less militant” workforce.Dr. Kriengsak said the firewall was getting “thinner” due to politics. He said there had to be greater investment in research and development and infrastructure and more vocational training to improve the skills of Thai labor.Another issue that moderator Roy brought up was the outflow of investment from the Stock Exchange of Thailand due to foreign investors concern that the Pheu Thai party might win the election. Mr. Nattakorn discredited political factors for the investment outflow. Another issue raised by Mr. Roy was the opinion that the increase in the minimum wage would hinder Thailand’s competitiveness unless it was coupled with productivity increases.Party spokespersons, Mr. Pichai and Ms. Anik both subscribed to the concept of increased productivity, while Mr. Yeap emphasized that in the Thai auto industry workplace safety played a key role and that productivity had to be increased while at the same time ensuring worker safety.

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