Thailand at the crossroads

By Dr Anuphan Kitnitchiva, Dherakupt International Law Office Ltd.

This time last year, millions of Thai citizens took to the streets demanding political and social reforms for their beloved country. The demonstrations continued for six months until the tense situation erupted on Thursday 22 May 2014 at 4.30 p.m. local time, with the Thai approach to resolution involving a peaceful coup d’état by the military. The military government was formed with a strong commitment to reform the country and to bring back a genuine democratic regime in which Thais from all walks of life would have the opportunity to participate and be involved by the year 2015.

Four months after the coup, the Thais are relatively at ease with the situation and progress is steadily continuing. The Consumer Confidence Index reached a nine-year high of 45.8 points in September 2014 while GDP is forecasted to grow by 4.8% in 2015, following 1.5% this year. The new government has moved quickly on a range of issues, including meeting outstanding payments to rice farmers and starting a USD 75 billion infrastructure spending programme on new rail links and highways. Major policies towards better income distribution and social justice have been initiated by the current government, including inheritance tax and land tax, which were unpopular among the social elite groups who were part of the previously elected administrations.

Positive reforms on other aspects, such as education and human resource development, transparency, good governance and more are all underway in the country.

Despite condemnation against the coup and the suspension of aid by the U.S. government, the US-ASEAN Business Council (USABC), together with 34 executives of prominent US multinational corporations, such as Microsoft, Google, Chevron, Ford, General Motor, Coca Cola, etc., met with Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha in November 2014 to discuss future endeavours. The participants enthusiastically expressed their interest in investments in infrastructure projects and other initiatives in areas such as green energy, digital economy, medical and health and many others.

Thailand and its neighbouring countries are about to enter 2015, a year in which the much anticipated ASEAN Economic Community will launch, resulting in a freer flow of goods, services, investment, capital and skilled labour. This upcoming scheme will literally put Thailand, with its geographical advantage, at the crossroads of the planned ASEAN highway network (12 routes, 6,669 kilometres) and the Greater Mekong subregion economic corridor will cross in the kingdom. To capitalise on the new era, Thailand has proposed the ASEAN connectivity development with special economic zones in five major areas and the country as the geographical hub of the region. In 2015, Thailand will be on track to play a dynamic and active role in this promising community.

Dr. Anuphan Kitnitchiva
Dherakupt International Law Office Ltd., Bangkok, Thailand
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published: November 2014

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