Only a few short days ago there was hope that Thailand might finally be able to move on from the months long protests that are now threatening to constrain economic growth. Prime Minister Yingluck, long the target of ire among protesters, was removed from power and some protest leaders appeared to be ready to move forward. Now, however, protesters are once again taking to the streets.
Protesters now appear to be trying to force the remnants of Yingluck’s government from office, even if it is only a caretaker government trying to hold the country together until elections can be held. A mass of protesters actually tried to cut the barbed wire surrounding a police command center before being chased off.
Protesters urged into action by former deputy Prime Minister
It appears that protesters are taking their marching orders from Suthep Thaugsuban, a former deputy prime minister who has pushed his way into the forefront of Thailand’s political scene. With his fist pumping speeches, Suthep has attracted legions of followers, mostly from Thailand’s south and/or hailing from the country’s middle class.
While analysts had hoped that Yingluck’s removal from power would at least quell tensions long enough to allow another election to be held, it appears that Suthep has no intention of letting any part of Yingluck’s government remain. Apparently, he is instructing protesters to take to the streets until every member of Yingluck’s government resigns.
Police fire teargas
Police are taking a heavier hand with protesters, resorting to tear gas and physical confrontation. While the violence has so far only been sporadic, confrontations do appear to be growing more frequent and protesters appear to be emboldened, if anything. Meanwhile, months of constant protesting may be leading to fatigue among the police and military.
Indeed, it may only be a matter of time before the King of Thailand, whom is still the ultimate authority, gives the military the green light to seize power.One of Suthep’s goals has been to establish a royally appointed government, but the nature and view of this government remain hard to predict.
Economists adopting increasingly negative outlook
Asia was once among Asia’s best economic performers. Government dysfunction, instability, and a recent lack of any government has been restraining economic growth. Further, foreign investors are getting cold feet and local consumption is being restrained.
In 2013, the economy expanded by only 2.9% and this year is projected to expand by 2.7%. If protests don’t dissipate, Thailand may fail to meet even these modest goals. To put this into perspective, many of Thailand’s developing South East Asian nations are growing in excess of 5 percent, even amid a rather tepdi global economy.