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Where is Thailand headed?

Volume 3, No 4: October - December, 2011

In late 2011 Thais are cleaning up after devastating floods, caused by above-normal rains in the north of the country. More than 600 people have died, millions of hectares of farmland have been inundated, 20,000 factories and plants have been damaged, some never to reopen, leaving at least 1.5 million unemployed. Accusations of incompetence and corruption in the management of the floodwaters and the allocation of relief funds dominate the media and the Parliament. Beneath the temporary gloom, there is good news. For the first time since September 2006, when a military coup deposed the government of Thaksin Shinawatra, the country has a leadership whose legal and electoral legitimacy is acknowledged by almost all Thais. This government has an opportunity to reduce, though presumably not eliminate, the severe polarisation of the last decade ⎯ Thaksin's five years of government and the five years of turmoil following his removal. The contributors to this issue set the scene for thinking about the challenges ahead. Most, but not all, of the essays are based on the Thailand Update Conference convened at the end of September 2011 by the ANU's National Thai Studies Centre. The road ahead remains uncertain. What is certain is that it will not be smooth.
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In late 2011 Thais are cleaning up after devastating floods, caused by above-normal rains in the north of the country. More than 600 people have died, millions of hectares of farmland have been inundated, 20,000 factories and plants have been damaged, some never to reopen, leaving at least 1.5 million unemployed. Accusations of incompetence and corruption in the management of the floodwaters and the allocation of relief funds dominate the media and the Parliament. Beneath the temporary gloom, there is good news. For the first time since September 2006, when a military coup deposed the government of Thaksin Shinawatra, the country has a leadership whose legal and electoral legitimacy is acknowledged by almost all Thais. This government has an opportunity to reduce, though presumably not eliminate, the severe polarisation of the last decade ⎯ Thaksin's five years of government and the five years of turmoil following his removal. The contributors to this issue set the scene for thinking about the challenges ahead. Most, but not all, of the essays are based on the Thailand Update Conference convened at the end of September 2011 by the ANU's National Thai Studies Centre. The road ahead remains uncertain. What is certain is that it will not be smooth.

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