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Pattaya Daily News

15 December 2008 :: 14:12:00 pm 39651

Abhisit’s Victory – New Hope for Thailand or Just a Respite from Mayhem

Abhisit Vejjajiva, 44-year-old opposition Democrat Party Leader, narrowly beat political contenders to become the 27th and youngest prime minister of Thailand, today, December 15, 2008; he will be the country's third prime minister in four months.
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Meanwhile, outside the Parliament, estimates of between 100 and 200, red-clad members of the United Front of Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD), the pro-Thaksin Shinawatra group, angrily demonstrated on learning of Mr Abhisit’s victory, accusing Mr. Abhisit of being a frontman of the army, causing police to be called in to quell any riot attempts.

Mr Abhisit, aka Mark, the British-born and Eton and Oxford-educated economist, gained 234 votes from a melange of MPs, including some renegades from Puea Thai Party, the reformed and retitled PPP, and those from the Friends of Newin group. He narrowly beat the other main contender, Puea Pandin Leader, Pol. Gen. Pracha Promnok, who only gained obtained 198 votes, despite having voted for himself.

Mr Abhisit declared that reviving the export and tourism-reliant economy would be his top priority, especially after the prolonged six months of disruption, culminating in the closure of Bangkok’s two airports, resulted in inestimable damage to the country’s international reputation, hitting exports especially hard. Acting Finance Minister, Suchart Thada-Thamrongvech, maintained the economy was expected to shrink 0.5-1.0% in QI,2009, and GDP forecast to increase by only 2 % over the year, effectively plunging Thailand into recession. In addition, Jatuporn Prompan, key leader of the Red Shirts, maintains there already appears to be a problem with the Finance Ministry portfolio. Mr Abhisit is also apparently requesting 3 months to shore up confidence, but given the critical state of the Thai economy, he is unlikely to have sufficient time.

Furthermore, political analysts see little real let up in Thailand’s three-year political crisis, with the country being polarised between Bangkok’s royal and military elites and Thaksin and his proxy allies, mostly the rural majority. This, despite Thaksin’s video address to 40,000 of his supporters at a Bangkok sports stadium, where he called for calm ? saying “May all sides take one step back and respect the results. Please don’t use any institution to intervene. Just let the country move forward. Don’t make people suffer more.” This latter statement was seen as a message to the army to stop meddling in the political arena.

Certainly, the Red Shirts showed no sign of letting up as they began pelting cars belonging to the PM with bricks, vowing to hold a mass rally and later return to the Parliament , after having been dispersed by police backed by the military. “We don’t accept the outcome,” shouted red shirts, vowing to prolong their ongoing protests.

According to the Arabic website, Al Jazeera, financial incentives had been offered, especially to smaller parties, for their vote. As for their own MP supporters, last night, the Democrats apparently confined many of their MPs to houses and hotels, guarded by security guards and chaperoned, incommunicado, with no access to the media or mobile phones to ensure none of them strayed from the party line in today’s crucial vote.

The Democratic Party is also expected to run into problems as the dissolution of the PPP left about 30 seats vacant and attempts fill the vacancies could well muddy the waters. Whether, Abhisit Vejjajiva’s victory will restore order to Thailand’s troubled political and economic sectors remains to be seen, all we can do is hope for the best.

Reporter : PDN staff   Photo : Internet   Category : Thailand News

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