Thailand: The Interim Government’s Insecurity

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January 24, 2007 22 04 GMT
http://www.stratfor.com/products/premium/read_article.php?id=283401

Summary

Recent events in Thailand have indicated continued insecurity on the
part of Thailand’s military government. They have also shown that
confusion and instability will remain the norm in the upcoming months.

Analysis

Though almost four months have passed since Thailand’s military
government seized power, it so far has proved unable to fully assert
its authority. And continued stresses from the New Year’s bombings
in Bangkok, deposed Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s visit to
Singapore, subsequent media censorship and the continued influence of
Thaksin supporters inside Thailand have left the interim government
feeling insecure.

So far, the interim government’s efforts to address these problems have
only exacerbated the issues, and it has yet to show the resolve and
capability to address its ongoing challenges adequately. The longer it
delays, the less likely it will be able to manage the situation
effectively.

The New Year’s bombings killed three people and wounded 40 in Bangkok. The bombers still have not been identified,
meaning speculation abounds as to who was responsible. The search for
the culprits has already increased the stress between the
military-backed interim government and the police. Although some have
suggested the bombings are related to ongoing violence in southern
Thailand, the careful and deliberate timing of the bombings does not
match previous patterns of violence in the south.

Opposition to the interim government from supporters of Thaksin is
strong and well-organized. Members of the Thai elite who backed the
coup initially are withdrawing support from the interim government, and
military and police officers have been implicated in the New Year’s
bombings. The regime’s attempts to negotiate with domestic opposition
have failed, as the opposition sees weaknesses in the military-backed
government.

Thaksin himself continues to enrage the interim government with his
international travel. His recent trip to Singapore caused the Thai
government to immediately retract an invitation to Singaporean Foreign
Minister George Yeo and suspend a nine-year exchange program in
protest. Thaksin later traveled to Japan, where he gave a TV interview.
The junta responded by censoring media outlets where the interview
would be broadcast.

These knee-jerk reactions, as well as the clumsy handling of capital
control measures and the inability of the regime to take substantive
action on the accusations of corruption and mismanagement by the
Thaksin government (which provided the justification for the coup in
the first place), has left public confidence in the new government
waning and given impetus to the opposition. The interim government is
on the defensive less than half a year after taking power, making it
likely to resort to seemingly random and occasionally extreme measures.

As the government seeks to stabilize its position, it will increase its
financial and legal attacks against Thaksin and his supporters, but
these moves might only increase resistance from other economic and
political elites in Thailand. The instability is likely to further
decrease investor confidence in Thailand, compounding problems for the
interim government. The next few months thus will see continued
uncertainty and instability in Bangkok’s domestic and economic policies.

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