Korn puts Shinawatra government on watch
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Korn puts Shinawatra government on watch

The buoyant Thai economy kept motoring on through the political disturbances of the past year. But the recently elected government of Yingluck Shinawatra is already being challenged on its economic policies by former finance minister Korn Chatikavanij. Eric Ellis reports.

former finance minister Korn Chatikavanij

WHAT A DIFFERENCE a year makes in Thailand. This time last year, Bangkok’s downtown Ratchaprasong crossroads at the Thai capital’s commercial core was a mess. The iconic Central Department Store was in ruins, trashed after the scorched-earth tactics of the crippling protests earlier in the year. Much of Bangkok’s commercial core – its chic five-star hotels and the luxury brand names of this iconic Asian downtown – was off limits and under reconstruction. And the divide between the red and yellow political factions was as wide as ever.

Today, it is impossible to imagine that anything more violent than a manic dash to a summer sale ever took place here.

Despite deep ructions in society, and some good reasons to be concerned for their future, not least the failing health of their much-loved octogenarian monarch, Thais have not retreated into economic introspection. Despite five years of red-yellow bitterness, airport blockades and that nasty two-month stand-off in central Bangkok last year that ended in a military crackdown, Thailand’s economy steamed on regardless.

Thailand enjoyed its most buoyant year in decades, with GDP expanding 8% since the May 2010 disturbances, a China-style performance despite tourism – which makes a bigger contribution to Thailand’s economy than to any other in Asia, up to 10% – taking a big hit after travellers were spooked by the bloody Bangkok siege.

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