Thailand has been racked by months of unrest as protesters have brought the country to a standstill but that may all be coming to an end in the next few months. Protesters essentially blocked the last election by boycotting it and forcing the election commission to throw the results out. Now, however, opposition leaders are promising to cooperate if fresh elections are held.
Elections will not be held for several months with July 20th having been identified as the earliest possible date. Prime Minister Yingluck has been pushing for new elections, but up until recently it seemed that protesters were bent on disrupting any elections. Now tensions seem to be easing and the various political parties in Thailand may be ready to move on.
Protests cooling off
The protests originally started over Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s attempt to have charges against her exiled brother, a former prime minister himself, dropped. The move was seen as an abuse of power and angered many protesters who then took to the streets and have all but shut the government down.
Still, the number of protesters has dwindled from over 150,000 down to just a few thousand. Regardless, the opposition could likely rally protesters to make another stand should it choose to do so. The protests have been led mostly by Thailand’s emerging middle class, while the working class tends to support Yingluck’s government.
At least two dozen people have been killed and hundreds of people injured in the on-going protests. At various times government buildings have been occupied and political leaders have been targeted. Interestingly, the King of Thailand and the army have thus far chosen not to get involved.
Thailand’s economy suffering from political crisis
Up until the breakout of protests, Thailand was one of the world’s fastest growing economies, regularly growing in excess of 5 percent. The Bank of Thailand now projects that the economy will grow by 2.7 percent, following growth of 2.9 percent in 2013, the year the protests started.
Retail sales have been cooling off and many analysts believe that the on-going political situation could at least be partially to blame. Consumer confidence has also fallen to new lows in recent months and tourists appear to be shunning the unstable country.
Household debt has also been growing and Thai’s agricultural sector has grown distorted due to heavy rice subsidies that the government is now struggling to pay. All of these factors could combine to make for a rough year for Thailand, especially if the government doesn’t sort itself out soon.